Masnavi i Ma’navi: the Spiritual Couplets of Maulana Jalalu-‘d’Din Muhammed i Rumi – Book 1



and Translated by E.H. Whinfield © 1898

Book I


I The Prince and the Handmaid

II The Oilman and his Parrot

III  The Jewish King, his Vizier, and the Christians

IV Another Tyrannical Jewish King

V The Lion and the Beasts

VI Omar and the Ambassador

VII The Merchant and his Clever Parrot

VIII The Harper

IX The Arab and his Wife

X The Man who was Tattooed

XI. The Lion who Hunted with the Wolf and the Fox.

XII Joseph and the Mirror

XIII The Prophet’s Scribe

XIV The Chinese and the Greek Artists

XV Counsels of Reserve given by the Prophet to his Freedman Zaid

XVI ‘Ali’s Forbearance

Book I


HEARKEN to the reed flute, how it complains, lamenting its banishment
from its home: “Ever since they tore me from my osier bed, my plaintive
notes have moved men and women to tears. I burst my breast, striving to
give vent to sighs, and to express the pangs of my yearning for my home.
He who abides far away from his home is ever longing for the day he shall
return. My wailing is heard in every throng, in concert with them that
rejoice and them that weep. Each interprets my notes in harmony with his
own feelings, but not one fathoms the secrets of my heart. My secrets are
not alien from my plaintive notes, yet they are not manifest to the sensual
eye and ear. Body is not veiled from soul, neither soul from body, yet
no man hath ever seen a soul.” This plaint of the flute is fire, not mere
air. Let him who lacks this fire be accounted dead!

‘Tis the fire of love that inspires the flute, [1] ’tis
the ferment of love that possesses the wine. The flute is the confidant
of all unhappy lovers; yes, its strains lay bare my inmost secrets. Who
hath seen a poison and an antidote like the flute? Who hath seen a sympathetic
consoler like the flute? The flute tells the tale of love’s bloodstained
path, it recounts the story of Majnun’s love toils. None is privy to these
feelings save one distracted, as ear inclines to the whispers of the tongue.
Through grief my days are as labour and sorrow, my days move on, hand in
hand with anguish. Yet, though my days vanish thus, ’tis no matter, do
thou abide, O incomparable pure one!


But all who are not fishes are soon tired of water; and they who lack
daily bread find the day very long; so the “Raw” comprehend not the state
of the “Ripe;” [3] Therefore it behoves me to shorten
my discourse. Arise, O son! burst thy bonds and be free! How long wilt
thou be captive to silver and gold? Though thou pour the ocean into thy
pitcher, it can hold no more than one day’s store. The pitcher of the desire
of the covetous never fills, the oyster shell fills not with pearls till
it is content; only he whose garment is rent by the violence of love Is
wholly pure from covetousness and sin.

Hail to thee, then, O love, sweet madness! Thou who healest all our
infirmities! Who art the physician of our pride and self conceit! Who art
our Plato and our Galen! Love exalts our earthly bodies to heaven, and
makes the very hills to dance with joy! O Lover, ’twas love that gave life
to Mount Sinai, [4] [see
when “it quaked, and Moses fell down in a swoon.”
Did my Beloved only touch me with his lips, I too, like the flute, would
burst out in melody. But he who is parted from them that speak his tongue,
though he possess a hundred voices, is perforce dumb. When the rose has
faded and the garden is withered, The song of the nightingale is no longer
to be heard.

The beloved is all in all, the lover only veils Him; [5]
the beloved is all that lives, the lover a dead thing. When the lover feels
no longer love’s quickening, he becomes like a bird who has lost its wings.
Alas! How can I retain my senses about me, when the beloved shows not the
light of His countenance? Love desires that this secret should be revealed,
for if a mirror reflects not, of what use is it?

Knowest thou why thy mirror reflects not? Because the rust has not been
scoured from its face. If it were purified from all rust and defilement,
it would reflect the shining of the sun of God. [6] O
friends, ye have now heard this tale, which sets forth the very essence
of my case.


The Prince and the Handmaid

A prince, while engaged on a hunting excursion, espied a fair maiden,
and by promises of gold induced her to accompany him. After a time she
fell sick, and the prince had her tended by divers physicians. As, however,
they all omitted to say, “God willing, [1] [see
] we will cure her,” their treatment was of no
avail. So the prince offered prayer, and in answer thereto a physician
was sent from heaven. He at once condemned his predecessors’ view of the
case, and by a very skilful diagnosis, discovered that the real cause of
the maiden’s illness was her love for a certain goldsmith of Samarkand.
In accordance with the physician’s advice, the prince sent to Samarkand
and fetched the goldsmith, and married him to the lovesick maiden, and
for six months the pair lived together in the utmost harmony and happiness.
At the end of that period the physician, by divine command, gave the goldsmith
a poisonous draught, which caused his strength and beauty to decay, and
he then lost favour with the maiden, and she was reunited to the king.
This Divine command was precisely similar to God’s command to Abraham to
slay his son Ismail, and to the act of the angel in slaying the servant
of Moses, [2] and is therefore beyond human criticism.


Description of Love

A true lover is proved such by his pain of heart; no sickness is there
like sickness of heart. The lover’s ailment is different from all ailments;
love is the astrolabe of God’s mysteries. A lover may hanker after this
love or that love, but at the last he is drawn to the king of love. However
much we describe and explain love, when we fall in love we are ashamed
of our words. Explanation by the tongue makes most things clear, but love
unexplained is clearer.

When pen hastened to write, on reaching the subject of love it split
in twain. When the discourse touched on the matter of love, pen was broken
and paper torn. In explaining it Reason sticks fast, as an ass in mire;
naught but love itself can explain love and lovers! None but the sun can
display the sun, if you would see it displayed, turn not away from it.
Shadows, indeed, may indicate the sun’s presence, but only the sun displays
the light of life. Shadows induce slumber, like evening talks, but when
the sun arises the “moon is split asunder.” [3]
In the
world there is naught so wondrous as the sun, but the Sun of the soul sets
not and has no yesterday. Though the material sun is unique and single,
we can conceive similar suns like to it.

But the sun of the soul, beyond this firmament, no like thereof is seen
in concrete or abstract. [4] Where is there room in
conception for His essence, So that similitudes of Him should be conceivable?

Shamsu-‘d-Din of Tabriz importunes Jalalu-‘d-Din to compose the

The sun (Shams) of Tabriz is a perfect light, a sun, yes, one of the
beams of God! When the praise was heard of the “sun of Tabriz,” The sun
of the fourth heaven bowed its head. Now that I have mentioned his name,
it is but right to set forth some indications of his beneficence.

That precious soul caught my skirt, smelling the perfume of the garment
of Yusuf; and said, “For the sake of our ancient friendship, tell forth
a hint of those sweet states of ecstasy, that earth and heaven may be rejoiced,
and also reason and spirit, a hundredfold.”

I said, “O thou who art far from ‘the friend,’ like a sick man who has
strayed from his physician, importune me not, for I am beside myself; my
understanding is gone, I cannot sing praises. Whatsoever one says, whose
reason is thus astray, let him not boast; his efforts are useless. Whatever
he says is not to the point, and is clearly inept and wide of the mark.
What can I say when not a nerve of mine is sensible? Can I explain ‘the
friend’ to one to whom He is no friend? Verily my singing His praise were
dispraise, for it would prove me existent, and existence is error. [5]
I describe my separation and my bleeding heart?

Nay, put off this matter till another season.” He said, ” Feed me, for
I am an hungered, and at once, for ‘the time is a sharp sword.’ O comrade,
the Sufi is ‘the son of time present.’ [6]
It is not
the rule of his canon to say, ‘To-morrow.’ Can it be that thou art not
a true Sufi? Ready money is lost by giving credit.” I said, “‘Tis best
to veil the secrets of ‘The Friend.’ So give good heed to the morals of
these stories. That is better than that the secrets of ‘The Friend’ Should
be noised abroad in the talk of strangers.” He said, “Without veil or covering
or deception, speak out, and vex me not, O man of many words! Strip off
the veil and speak out, for do not I enter under the same coverlet as the
Beloved?” I said, “If the Beloved were exposed to outward view, neither
wouldst thou endure, nor embrace, nor form. Press thy suit, yet with moderation;
a blade of grass cannot, pierce a mountain. If the sun that illumines the
world were to draw near, the world would be consumed. [7]
thy mouth and shut the eyes of this matter, that, the world’s life be not
made a bleeding heart. No longer seek this peril, this bloodshed; hereafter
impose silence on the ‘sun of Tabriz.’” He said, “Thy words are endless.
Now tell forth all thy story from its beginning.”


The Oilman and his Parrot

An oilman possessed a parrot which used to amuse him with its agreeable
prattle, and to watch his shop when he went out. One day, when the parrot
was alone in the shop, a cat upset one of the oil-jars. When the oilman
returned home he thought that the parrot had done this mischief, and in
his anger he smote the parrot such a blow on the head as made all its feathers
drop off, and so stunned it that it lost the power of speech for several
days. But one day the parrot saw a bald-headed man passing the shop, and
recovering its speech, it cried out, “Pray, whose oil-jar did you upset?”
The passers-by smiled at the parrot’s mistake in confounding baldness caused
by age with the loss of its own feathers due to a blow.

Confusion of saints with hypocrites

Worldly senses are the ladder of earth, spiritual senses are the ladder
of heaven. The health of the former is sought of the leech, the health
of the latter from “The Friend.” The health of the former arises from tending
the body, that of the latter from mortifying the flesh. The kingly soul
lays waste the body, and after its destruction he builds it anew. Happy
the soul who for love of God has lavished family, wealth, and goods! Has
destroyed its house to find the hidden treasure, and with that treasure
has rebuilt it in fairer sort, h
as dammed up the stream and cleansed
the channel, and then turned a fresh stream into the channel; has cut its
flesh to extract a spear-head, [1] causing a fresh skin
to grow again over the wound. Has razed the fort to oust, the infidel in
possession, and then rebuilt it with a hundred towers and bulwarks.


Who can describe the unique work of grace? I have been forced to illustrate
it by these similes. Sometimes it presents one appearance, sometimes another.
Yes, the affair of religion is only bewilderment. Not, such as occurs when
one turns one’s back on God, but such as when one is drowned and absorbed
in Him. The latter has his face ever turned to God, the former’s face shows
his undisciplined self-will. Watch the face of each one, regard it well.
It may be by serving thou wilt recognize Truth’s face. As there are many
demons with men’s faces, it is wrong to join hand with every one.

When the fowler sounds his decoy whistle, that the birds may be beguiled
by that snare, the birds hear that call simulating a bird’s call and, descending
from the air, find net and knife. So vile hypocrites steal the language
of dervishes, in order to beguile the simple with their trickery. The works
of the righteous are light and heat, the works of the evil treachery and

They make stuffed lions to scare the simple, they give the title of
Muhammad to false Musailima. But Musailma retained the name of “Liar,”
and Muhammad that of “sublimest of beings.” That wine of God (the righteous)
yields a perfume of musk;

Other wine (the evil) is reserved for penalties and pains.


The Jewish King, his Vizier, and the Christians

A certain Jewish king used to persecute the Christians, desiring to
exterminate their faith. His Vizier persuaded him to try a stratagem, namely,
to mutilate the Vizier himself, and expel him from his court, with the
intent that he might take refuge with the Christians, and stir up mutual
dissension amongst them. The Vizier’s suggestion was adopted. [1]
He fled to the Christians, and found no difficulty in persuading them that
he had been treated in that barbarous way on account of his attachment
to the Christian faith.

He soon gained complete influence over them, and was accepted as a saintly
martyr and a divine teacher. Only a few discerning men divined his treachery
; the majority were all deluded by him. The Christians were divided into
twelve legions, and at the head of each was a captain. To each of these
captains the Vazir gave secretly a volume of religious directions, taking
care to make the directions in each volume different from and contradictory
to those in the others. One volume enjoined fasting, another charity, another
faith, another works, and so on. Afterwards the Vazir withdrew into a cave,
and refused to come out to instruct his disciples, in spite of all their
entreaties. Calling the captains to him, he gave secret instructions to
each to set himself up as his successor, and to be guided by the instructions
in the volume secretly confided to him, and to slay all other claimants
of the apostolic office.

Having given these directions, he slew himself. In the event each captain
set himself up as the Vizier’s successor, and the Christians were split
up into many sects at enmity with one another, even as the Vazir had intended.
But the malicious scheme did not, altogether succeed, as one faithful band
cleaved to the name of “Ahmad,” mentioned in the Gospel, [2]
and were thus saved from sharing the ruin of the rest.


The Vizier’s Teaching

Myriads of Christians flocked round him, one after another they assembled
in his street. Then he would preach to them of mysteries, mysteries of
the Gospel, of stoles, of prayers. He would preach to them with eloquent
words concerning the words and acts of the Messiah. Outwardly he was a
preacher of religious duties, but within a decoy call and a fowler’s snare.

Therefore the followers of the Prophet (‘Isa) were beguiled by the fraud
of that demon soul. He mingled in his discourses many secret doctrines
concerning devotion and sincerity of soul. He taught them to make a fair
show of devotion, but to say of secret sins, “What do they matter?” Hair
by hair and jot by jot they learned of him fraud of soul, as roses might
learn of garlic.

Hair-splitters and all their disciples are darkened by similar preaching
and discourse. The Christians gave their hearts to him entirely, for the
blind faith of the vulgar has no discernment. In their inmost breasts they
planted love of him, and fancied him to be the Vicar of Christ. O that
one-eyed and cursed Dajjal! [Satan] [3] Save us. O God
! Who art our only defender!

O God, there are hundreds of snares and baits, and we are even as greedy
and foolish birds. Every moment our feet are caught in a fresh snare. Yes,
each one of us, though he be a falcon or Simurgh!

Thou dost release us every moment, and straightway we again fly into
the snare, O Almighty One! Sleep of the body the soul’s awakening. Every
night Thou freest our spirits from the body and its snare, making them
pure as erased tablets. Every night spirits are released from this cage,
and set free, neither lording it nor lorded over. At night prisoners are
unaware of their prison, at night kings are unaware of their majesty.

Then there is no thought or care for loss or gain, no regard to such
an one or such an one. The state of the “Knower” is such as this, even
when awake. God says, [4] “Thou wouldst deem him awake
though asleep, sleeping to the affairs of the world, day and night, like
a pen in the directing hand of the writer.

He who sees not the hand which effects the writing fancies the effect
proceeds from the motion of the pen. If the “knower” revealed the particulars
of this state, ‘it would rob the vulgar of their sensual sleep. His soul
wanders in the desert that has no  similitude; like his body, his
spirit is enjoying perfect rest freed from desire of eating and drinking,
like a bird escaped from cage and snare. But when he is again beguiled
into the snare, he cries for help to the Almighty.

Laila and the Khalifa

The Khalifa said to Laila, “Art thou really she for whom Majnun lost
his head and went distracted? Thou art not fairer than many other fair

She replied, “be silent; thou art not Majnun!” If thou hadst Majnun’s
eyes, the two worlds would be within thy view.

Thou art in thy senses, but Majnun is beside himself. In love to be
wide awake is treason. The more a man is awake, the more he sleeps (to
love). His (critical) wakefulness is worse than slumbering.

Our wakefulness fetters our spirits, then our souls are a prey to diverse
whims, thoughts of loss and gain and fears of misery. They retain not purity,
nor dignity, nor lustre, nor aspiration to soar heavenwards.

That one is really sleeping who hankers after each whim and holds parley
with each fancy.

The twelve volumes of theology

He drew up a separate scroll to the address of each, the contents of
each scroll of a different tenor. The rules of each of a different purport,
this contradictory of that, from beginning to end. In one the road of fasting
and asceticism was made the pillar and condition of right devotion.

In one ’twas said, “abstinence profits not; sincerity in this path is
naught but charity.”

In one ’twas said, “Thy fasting and thy charity are both a making thyself
equal with God; save faith and utter resignation to God’s will in weal
and woe, all virtues are fraud and snares.”

In one ’twas said, “works are the one thing needful; the doctrine of
faith without works is a delusion.” In one ’twas said, “commands and prohibitions
are not for observance, but to demonstrate our weakness, that we may see
our own weakness (to carry them out), and thereby recognize and confess
God’s power.” [5]

In one ’twas said, “reference to thine own weakness is ingratitude for
God’s mercies towards us. Rather regard thy power, for thou hast power
from God. Know thy power to be God’s grace, for ’tis of Him.” In one ’twas
said, “Leave power and weakness alone; whatever withdraws thine eyes from
God is an idol.”

In one ’twas said, “Quench not thy earthy torch, [6]
that it may be a light to lighten mankind. If thou neglectest regard and
care for it, thou wilt quench at midnight the lamp of union.”

In one ’twas said, “Quench that torch without fear, that in lieu of
one thou may’st see a thousand joys, for by quenching the light the soul
is rejoiced, and thy Laila is then as bold as her Majnun. Whoso to display
his devotion renounces the world, the world is ever with him, before and

In one ’twas said, “Whatsoever God has given thee in His creation, that
He has made sweet to thee; yes, pleasant to thee and allowable. Take it,
then, and cast not thyself into the pangs of abstinence.”

In one ’twas said, “Give up all thou possessest, for to be ruled by
covetousness is grievous sin.” (Ah! how many diverse roads are pointed
out, and each followed by some sect for dear life! If the right road were
easily attainable, every Jew and Gueber would have hit on it!)

In one ’twas said, “The right road is attainable, for the heart’s life
is the food of the soul. Whatever is enjoyed by the carnal man yields no
fruit, even as salt and waste land. Its result is naught but remorse, its
traffic yields only loss. It is not profitable in the long run. Its name
is called ‘bankrupt’ in the upshot. Discern, then, the bankrupt from the
profitable, consider the eventual value of this and that.”

In one ’twas said, “choose ye a wise Director, but foresight of results
is not found in dignities.” (Each sect looked to results in a different
way, and so, perforce, became captive to errors. Real foresight of results
is not simple jugglery, otherwise all these differences would not have

In one ’twas said, “thyself art thy master, inasmuch as thou art acquainted
with the Master of all, be a man, and not another man’s beast of burden!
Follow thine own way and lose not thy head!”

In one ’twas said, “All we see is One. Whoever says ’tis two is suffering
from double vision.”

In one ’twas said, “A hundred are even as one.” [7]
But whoso thinks this is a. madman. Each scroll had its contrary piece
of rhetoric, in form and substance utterly opposed to it. This contrary
to that, from first to last, as if each was compounded of poison and antidotes.


Another Tyrannical Jewish King

A certain Jewish king, the same who is referred to in the Sura “Signs
of the Zodiac,” [1] made up his mind to utterly exterminate
the Christian faith, and with that view he set up a huge idol, and issued
commands that all who refused to worship it should be cast into the fire.
Thereupon his officers seized a Christian woman with her babe, and as she
refused to worship it, they cast the babe into the fire. But the babe cried
out to its mother, “Be not afraid, the fire has no power to burn me; it
is as cool as water!” Hearing this, the rest of the Christians leapt into
the fire, and found that it did not burn them. The king reproached the
fire for failing to do its office, but the fire replied that it was God’s
servant, and that its consuming properties were not to be used for evil
purposes. It then blazed up and consumed the king, and all his Jews with


Second[ary] causes only operate in subordination to, and form the impulsion
of, the first cause. Air, earth, water and fire are God’s servants. To
us they seem lifeless, but to God living. In God’s presence fire ever waits
to do its service, like a submissive lover with no will of its own. When
you strike steel on flint fire leaps forth; but ’tis by God’s command it
thus steps forth. Strike not together the flint and steel of wrong, for
the pair will generate more, like man and woman. The flint and steel are
themselves causes, yet look higher for the first cause, O righteous man!

For that Cause precedes this second[ary] cause

How can a cause exist of itself without precedent cause? That cause
makes this cause operative, and again helpless and inoperative. That cause,
which is a guiding light to the prophets, that, I say, is higher than these
second causes.

Men’s minds recognize these second causes, but only prophets perceive
the action of the First Cause. Praise compared to vapour drawn upwards,
and then descending in rain. Though water be enclosed in a reservoir, yet
air will absorb it, for ’tis its supporter. It sets it free and bears it
to its source, little by little, so that you see not the process.

In like manner this breath of ours by degrees steals away our souls
from the prison-house of earth. “The good word riseth up to Him,” [2]
rising from us whither he knoweth. Our breathings are lifted up in fear
of God, offerings from us to the throne of eternity. Then come down to
us rewards for our praises, the double thereof, yes, mercies from the King
of Glory.

Therefore are we constrained to utter these praises that slaves may
attain the height of God’s gifts.

And so this rising and descent go on evermore, and cease not forever
and aye. To speak in plain Persian, this attraction

comes from the same quarter whence comes this sweet savour. [3]


The Lion and the Beasts

In the book of Kalila and Damna a story is told of a lion who held all
the beasts of the neighbourhood in subjection and was in the habit of making
constant raids upon them to take and kill such of them as he required for
his daily food. At last the beasts took counsel together and agreed to
deliver up one of their company every day to satisfy the lion’s hunger,
if he, on his part, would cease to annoy them by his continual forays.
The lion was at first unwilling to trust to their promise, remarking that
he always preferred to rely on his own exertions; but the beasts succeeded
in persuading him that he would do well to trust Providence and their word.

To illustrate the thesis that human exertions are vain, they related
a story of a man who got Solomon to transport him to Hindustan to escape
the angel of death, but was smitten by the angel the moment he got there.
Having carried their point, the beasts continued for some time to perform
their engagement.

One day it came to the turn of the hare to be delivered up as a victim
to the lion; but he requested the others to let him practice a stratagem.
They scoffed at him, asking how such silly beast as he could pretend to
outwit the lion. The hare assured them that wisdom was of God, and God
might choose weak things to confound the strong. At last they consented
to let him try his luck. He took his way slowly to the lion, and found
him sorely enraged. In excuse for his tardy arrival he represented that
he and another hare had set out together to appear before the lion, but
a strange lion had seized the second hare, and carried it off in spite
of his remonstrance.

On hearing this, the lion was exceeding wroth, and commanded the hare
to show him the foe who had trespassed on his preserves. Pretending to
be afraid, the hare got the lion to take him upon his back, and directed
him to a well. On looking down the well, the lion saw in the water the
reflection of himself and of the hare on his back; and thinking that he
saw his foe with the stolen hare, he plunged in to attack him, and was
drowned, while the hare sprang off his back and escaped. This folly on
the part, of the lion was predestined to punish him for denying God’s ruling
providence. So Adam, though he knew the names of all things, in accordance
with God’s predestination, neglected to obey a single prohibition, and
his disobedience cost him dearly.


Trust in God, as opposed to human exertions.

The beasts said, “O enlightened sage, lay aside caution; it cannot help
thee against destiny. To worry with precaution is toil and moil. Go, trust
in Providence, trust is the better part. War not with the divine decree,
O hot-headed one, lest that decree enter into conflict with thee.

Man should be as dead before the commands of God lest a blow befall
him from the Lord of all creatures.” He said, “True; but though trust be
our mainstay, yet the Prophet teaches us to have regard to means. The Prophet
cried with a loud voice,

‘trust in God, yet tie the camel’s leg.’ [l] Hear
the adage, ‘The worker is the friend of God;’ [2] through
trust in Providence neglect not to use means.

Go, O quietists, practice trust with self exertion, exert yourself to
attain your objects, bit by bit. In order to succeed, strive and exert
yourselves. If ye strive not for your objects, ye are fools. They said,
“What is gained from the poor by exertions

is a fraudulent morsel that will bring ill luck. Again, know that self-exertion
springs from weakness. Relying on other means is a blot upon perfect trust.
Self-exertion is not more noble than trust in God. What is more lovely
than committing oneself to God?

Many there are who flee from one danger to a worse. Many flee from a
snake and meet a dragon. Man plans a stratagem, and thereby snares himself.
What he takes for life turns out, to be destruction. He shuts the door
after his foe is in the house.

After this sort were the schemes of Pharaoh. That jealous king slew
a myriad babes, while Moses, whom he sought, was in his house. Our eyes
are subject to many infirmities. Go! annihilate your sight in God’s sight,
for our foresight His foresight is a fair exchange. In His sight is all
that ye can desire. So long as a babe cannot grasp or run, it takes its
father’s back for its carriage. But when it becomes independent and uses
its hands, it falls into grievous troubles and disgrace.

The souls of our first parents, even before their hands, flew away from
fidelity after vain pleasure. Being made captives by the command, ‘Get
down hence,’ [3] they became bond slaves of enmity,
lust, and vanity.

We are the family of the Lord and His sucking babes. The Prophet said,
‘The people are God’s family.’ He who sends forth the rain from heaven,
can He not also provide us our daily bread?”

The lion said, “True, yet the Lord of creatures sets a ladder before
our feet. Step by step must we mount up to the roof!

The notion of fatalism is groundless in this place. Ye have feet why
then pretend ye are lame? Ye have hands why then conceal your claws?
When a master places a spade in the hand of a slave, the slave knows his
meaning without being told.

Like this spade, our hands are our Master’s hints to us. Yes, if ye
consider, they are His directions to us. When ye have taken to heart His
hints, ye will shape your life in reliance on their direction. Wherefore
these hints disclose His intent, take the burden from you, and appoint
your work. He that bears it makes it bearable by you. He that is able makes
it within your ability.

Accept His command, and you will be able to execute it. Seek union with
Him, and you will find yourselves united. Exertion is giving thanks for
God’s blessings. Think ye that your fatalism gives such thanks? Giving
thanks for blessings increases blessings, but fatalism snatches those blessings
from your hands. Your fatalism is to sleep on the road. Sleep not till
ye behold the gates of the king’s palace.

Ah! sleep not, O unreflecting fatalists, till ye have reached that fruit
laden Tree of Life whose branches are ever shaken by the wind, and whose
fruit is showered on the sleepers’ heads. Fatalism means sleeping amidst
highwaymen. Can a cock who crows too soon expect peace?

If ye cavil [quibble] at and accept not God’s hints, though ye count
yourselves men, see, ye are women. The quantum [quantity] of reason ye
possessed is lost, and the head whose reason has fled is a tail. Inasmuch
as the unthankful are despicable, they are at last cast into the fiery

If ye really have trust in God, exert yourselves, and strive, in constant
reliance on the Almighty.” Wisdom is granted often times to the weak. He
said, “O friends, God has given me inspiration. Often times strong counsel
is suggested to the weak.

The wit taught by God to the bee is withheld from the lion and the
wild ass. It fills its cells with liquid sweets, for God opens the door
of this knowledge to it.

The skill taught by God to the silkworm is a learning beyond the reach
of the elephant. The earthly Adam was taught of God names, [4]
so that his glory reached the Seventh Heaven. He
laid low the name and fame of the angels,
et blind indeed are they whom God dooms to doubt!

The devotee of seven hundred thousand years (Satan) was made a muzzle
for that yearling calf (Adam), [6] lest he should suck
milk of the knowledge of faith, and soar on high even to the towers of
heaven. The knowledge of men of external sense is a muzzle to stop them
sucking milk of that sublime knowledge.

But God drops into the heart a single pearl drop which is not bestowed
on oceans or skies!” “How long regard ye mere form, O form worshippers?
Your souls, void of substance, rest still in forms. If the form of man
were all that made man,

Ahmad and Abu Jahl would be upon a par.

A painting on a wall resembles a man, but see what it is lacking in
that empty form. ‘Tis life that is lacking to that mere semblance of man.
Go! seek for that pearl it never will find. The heads of earth’s lions
were bowed down when God gave might to the seven sleepers’ dog. [7]
What mattered its despised form when its soul was drowned in the sea of

Human wisdom, the manifestation of divine

On his way to the lion the hare lingered, devising a stratagem with
himself. He proceeded on his way after delaying long, i n order to have
a secret or two for the lion. What worlds the principle of Reason embraces!
How broad is this ocean of Reason! Yes, the Reason of man is a boundless
ocean. O son, that ocean requires, as it were, a diver. [8]
On this fair ocean our human forms float about, like bowls on the surface
of water; yes like cups on the surface, till they are filled. And when
filled, these cups sink into the water.

The ocean of Reason is not seen; reasoning men are seen; but our forms
(minds) are only as waves or spray thereof. Whatever form that ocean uses
as its instrument, therewith it casts its spray far and wide. [9]
Till the heart sees the Giver of the secret, till it espies that Bowman
shooting from afar, it fancies its own steed lost, while in bewilderment
it is urging that steed hither and thither. [10] It
fancies its own steed lost, when all the while that swift steed is bearing
it on like the wind.

In deep distress that blunder head runs from door to door, searching
and inquiring, “who and where is he that hath stolen my steed?” They say,
“What is this thou ridest on, O master?” He says, “True, ’tis a steed;
but where is mine?” They say, “Look to thyself, O rider; thy steed is there.”

The real soul is lost to view, and seems far off. [11]
Thou art like a pitcher with full belly but dry lip. How canst thou ever
see red, green, and scarlet unless thou seest the light first of all? When
thy sight is dazzled by colours, these colours veil the light from thee.
But when night veils those colours from thee, thou seest that colours are
seen only through light. As there is no seeing outward colours without
light, so it is with the mental colours within.

Outward colours arise from the light of sun and stars, and inward colours
from the Light on high. The light that lights the eye is also the heart’s
Light. The eye’s light proceeds from the Light of the heart. But the light
that lights the heart is the Light of God, which is distinct from the light
of reason and sense. At night there is no light, and colours are not seen.
Hence we know what light is by its opposite, darkness. At night no colours
are visible, for light is lacking. How can colour be the attribute of dark
blackness? Looking on light is the same as looking on colours. Opposite
shows up opposite, as a Frank or a Negro.

The opposite of light shows what is light, hence colours too are known
by their opposite. God created pain and grief for this purpose, to wit,
to manifest happiness by its opposites. [12] Hidden
things are manifested by their opposites. But, as God has no opposite.
He remains hidden. God’s light has no opposite in the range of creation
whereby it may be manifested to view.  Perforce “Our eyes see not
Him, though He sees us.” [13]

Behold this in the case of Moses and Mount Sinai. [14]
Discern form from substance, as lion from desert, or as sound and speech
from the thought they convey. The sound and speech arise from the thought.
Thou knowest not where is the Ocean of thought. Yet when thou seest fair
waves of speech, thou knowest there is a glorious Ocean beneath them.

When waves of thought arise from the Ocean of Wisdom, they assume the
forms of sound and speech. These forms of speech are born and die again,
these waves cast themselves back into the Ocean. Form is born of That which
is without form,

And goes again, for, “Verily to Him do we return.” [15]

Wherefore to thee every moment come death and “return.” Mustafa saith,
“The world endureth only a moment.”

So, thought is an arrow shot by God into the air. How can it stay in
the air? It returns to God. Every moment the world and we are renewed,
[16] yet we are ignorant of this renewing forever and
aye. Life, like a stream of water, is renewed and renewed, though it wears
the appearance of continuity in form. That seeming continuity arises from
its swift renewal,

As when a single spark of fire is whirled round swiftly. [17]

If a single spark be whirled round swiftly, it seems to the eye a continuous
line of fire. This apparent extension, owing to the quick motion, demonstrates
the rapidity with which it is moved. If ye seek the deepest student of
this mystery, lo! ’tis Husamu-‘d-Din, the most exalted of creatures!


Omar [Umar] and the Ambassador.

The hare, having delivered his companions from the tyranny of the lion,
in the manner just described, proceeds to improve the occasion by exhorting
them to engage in a greater and more arduous warfare, viz., the struggle
against their inward enemy, the lusts of the flesh. He illustrates his
meaning by the story of an ambassador who was sent by the Emperor of Rum
to the Khalifa ‘Omar. On approaching Medina this ambassador inquired for
‘Omar’s palace, and learned that ‘Omar dwelt in no material palace, but
in a spiritual tabernacle, only visible to purified hearts. At last he
discerned ‘Omar lying under a palm tree, and drew near to him in fear and
awe. ‘Omar received him kindly, and instructed him in the doctrine of the
mystical union with God. The ambassador heard him gladly, and asked him
two questions, first, How can souls descend from heaven to earth? and secondly,
With what object are souls imprisoned in the bonds of flesh and blood?
‘Omar responded, and the ambassador accepted his teaching, and became a
pure hearted Sufi. The hare urged his companions to abjure lust and pride,
and to go and do likewise.

God’s agency reconciled with man’s freewill. The ambassador said, “O
Commander of the faithful, how comes the soul down from above to earth,
how can so noble a bird be confined in a cage?” He said, “God speaks words
of power to souls, to things of naught, without eyes or ears, and at these
words they all spring into motion. At His words of power these nothings
arise quickly, and strong impulse urges them into existence. Again, He
speaks other spells to these creatures, and swiftly drives them back again
into not being. He speaks to the rose’s ear, and causes it to bloom. He
speaks to the tulip, and makes it blossom. He speaks a spell to body, and
it becomes soul. He speaks to the sun, and it becomes a fount of light.
Again, in its ear He whispers a word of power, and its face is darkened
as by a hundred eclipses.

What is it that God says to the ear of earth, that it attends thereto
and rests steadfast? What is it that Speaker says to the cloud, that it
pours forth rain-water like a water skin? Whosoever is bewildered by wavering
will, [l] in his ear hath God whispered His riddle,
that He may bind him on the horns of a dilemma. For he says, ‘Shall I do
this or its reverse?’

Also from God comes the preference of one alternative. ‘Tis from God’s
impulsion that man chooses one of the two. If you desire sanity in this
embarrassment, stuff not the ear of your mind with cotton. Take the cotton
of evil suggestions from the mind’s ear, [2] that the
heavenly voice from above may enter it, that you may understand that riddle
of His, that you may be cognizant of that open secret. Then the mind’s
ear becomes the sensorium of inspiration. For what is this Divine voice
but the inward voice? [3]

The spirit’s eye and ear possess this sense, the eye and ear of reason
and sense lack it. The word ‘compulsion’ makes me impatient for love’s
sake. ‘Tis he who loves not who is fettered by compulsion. This is close
communion with God, not compulsion, the shining of the sun, and not a dark
cloud. Or, if it be compulsion, ’tis not common compulsion, it is not the
domination of wanton wilfulness. O son, they understand this compulsion
for whom God opens the eyes of the inner man.

Things hidden and things future are plain to them. To speak of the past
seems to them despicable. They possess freewill and compulsion besides,
as in oyster shells raindrops are pearls. Outside the shell they are raindrops,
great and small. Inside they are precious pearls, big and little.

These men also resemble the musk deer’s bag. Outside it is blood, but
inside pure musk. Yet, say not that outside ’twas mere blood, which on
entering the bag becomes musk. Nor say that outside the alembic ’twas mere
copper, And becomes gold inside, when mixed with elixir.


In you freewill and compulsion are vain fancies, but in them they
are the light of Almighty power.

On the table bread is a mere lifeless thing, when taken into the body
it is a life giving spirit. This transmutation occurs not in the table’s
heart, ’tis soul effects this transmutation with water of life.

Such is the power of the soul, O man of right views! Then what is the
power of the Soul of souls? (God). Bread is the food of the body, yet consider,
how can it be the food of the soul, O son? Flesh born man by force of soul
cleaves mountains with tunnels and mines.

The might of Ferhad’s soul cleft a hill. The might of the Soul’s soul
cleaves the moon. [5] If the heart opens the mouth of
mystery’s store, the soul springs up swiftly to highest heaven. If tongue
discourses of hidden mysteries, it kindles a fire that consumes the world.

Behold, then, God’s action and man’s action. Know, action does belong
to us ; this is evident. If no actions proceeded from men, how could you
say, ‘Why act ye thus?’ The agency of God is the cause of our action, our
actions are the signs of God’s agency. Nevertheless our actions are freely
willed by us, whence our recompense is either hell or ‘the friend.’”


The Merchant and his Clever Parrot

There was a certain merchant who kept a parrot in a cage. Being about
to travel to Hindustan on business, he asked the parrot if he had any message
to send to his kinsmen in that country, and the parrot desired him to tell
them that he was kept confined in a cage. The merchant promised to deliver
this message, and on reaching Hindustan, duly delivered it to the first
flock of parrots he saw. On hearing it one of them at once fell down dead.
The merchant was annoyed with his own parrot for having sent such a fatal
message, and on his return home sharply rebuked his parrot for doing so.
But the parrot no sooner heard the merchant’s tale than he too fell down
dead in his cage. The merchant, after lamenting his death, took his corpse
out of the cage and threw it away; but, to his surprise, the corpse immediately
recovered life, and flew away, explaining that the Hindustani parrot had
only feigned death to suggest this way of escaping from confinement in
a cage.


Saints are preserved from all harm. [1]

As to a “man of heart,” he takes no hurt, even though he should eat
deadly poison.

He who gains health from practising abstinence is safe. The poor disciple
is safe in the midst of fever.  The prophet said, “O disciple, though
you be bold,  yet enter not into conflict with every foe.”

Within you is a Nimrod; enter not his fire. But if you must do so, first
become an Abraham. [2] If you are neither swimmer nor
seaman, cast not yourself into the sea out of self conceit. A swimmer brings
pearls from the deep sea. Yes, he plucks gain from the midst of perils.

If the saint handles earth, it becomes gold. If a sinner handles gold,
it turns to dust. Whereas the saint is well pleasing to God, in his actions
his hand is the hand of God. But the sinner’s hand is the hand of Satan
and demons, because he is ensnared in falsity and fraud. If folly meets
him, he takes it for wisdom. Yes, the learning gained by the wicked is
folly. Whatever a sick man eats is a source of sickness, but if a saint
imbibe infidelity it becomes faith.

Ah! footman who contendest with horsemen, thou wilt not succeed in carrying
the day!

The jealousy of God [3]

The whole world is jealous for this cause, that God surpasseth the world
in jealousy. God is as a soul and the world as a body, and bodies derive
their good and evil from souls. He to whom the sanctuary of true prayer
is revealed deems it shameful to turn back to mere formal religion. He
who is master of the robes of a king brings shame on his lord by petty
huckstering. He who is admitted to the king’s presence chamber would show
disrespect by tarrying at the doorway. If the king grants him license to
kiss his hand, he would err were he to kiss merely the king’s foot. Though
to lay head at the king’s feet is due obeisance, in the case supposed it
would be wrong to kiss the feet. The king’s jealousy would be kindled against
him who, after he had seen his face, preferred his mere perfume. God’s
jealousy may be likened to a grain of wheat, but man’s jealousy is but
empty chaff.

For know ye that the source of jealousy is in God, and man’s jealousy
is only an offshoot from God’s. But, let me now quit this subject, and
make complaint of the severity of that fickle fair one.

Complaints of God’s harsh dealings with His adoring slaves

“Wherefore dost thou abandon thy creed and faith? What matters it if
it be heathen or true? Why hast thou forsaken thy Beloved? What matters
it if she be fair or ugly?”  [4] Let me then, I
say, make complaint of the severity of that fickle fair one. I cry, and
my cries sound sweet in His ear. He requires from the two worlds cries
and groans. How shall I not wail under His chastening hand? How shall I
not be in the number of those bewitched by Him? How shall I be other than
night without His day? Without the vision of His face that illumines the

His bitters are very sweets to my soul, my sad heart is a lively sacrifice
to my beloved. I am enamoured of my own grief and pain, for it makes me
well-pleasing to my peerless king. I use the dust of my grief as salve
for my eyes, that my eyes, like seas, may teem with pearls.

The tears which are shed because of His chastening are very pearls,
though men deem them mere tears. ‘Tis “the soul of souls” of whom I am
making complaint. Yet I do not complain; I merely state my case. My heart
says, “He has injured me,”

But I laugh at these pretended injuries.

Do me justice, O Thou who art the glory of the just who art the throne,
and I the lintel of Thy door! But, in sober truth, where are throne and

Where are “we” and “I?” There where our beloved is!

O Thou, who art exempt from “us” and “me,” who pervadest the spirits
of all men and women. When man and woman become one, Thou art that one!
When their union is dissolved, lo! Thou abidest! Thou hast made these “us”
and “me” for this purpose, to wit, to play chess with them by Thyself.

When Thou shalt become one entity with “us” and “you.” Then wilt Thou
show true affection for these lovers. When these “we” and “ye” shall all
become one soul, then they will be lost and absorbed in the “beloved.”

These are plain truths. Come then, O Lord! who art exalted above description
and explanation! Is it possible for the bodily eye to behold Thee? Can
mind of man conceive Thy frowns and Thy smiles? Are hearts, when bewitched
by Thy smiles and frowns,  [6] in a fit state to
see the vision of Thyself? When our hearts are bewitched by Thy smiles
and frowns, can we gain life from these two alternating states? The fertile
garden of love, as it is boundless, contains other fruits besides joy and

The true lover is exalted above these two states, he is fresh and green
independently of autumn or spring! Pay tithe on Thy beauty, O Beauteous
One! Tell forth the tale of the Beloved, every whit! For through coquetry
His glances are still inflicting fresh wounds on my heart. I gave Him leave
to shed my blood, if He willed it. I only said, “Is it right? ” and He
forsook me.

Why dost Thou flee from the cries of us on earth? Why pourest Thou sorrow
on the heart of the sorrowful? O Thou who, as each new morn dawns from
the east, art seen uprising anew, like a bright fountain! What excuse makest
Thou for Thy witcheries? O Thou whose lips are sweeter than sugar, thou
that ever renewest the life of this old world, fear the cry of this lifeless
body and heart!

But, for God’s sake, leave off telling of the rose. Tell of the bulbul
[a Persian nightingale] who is severed from his rose. My ardour arises
not from joy or grief, my sense mates not with illusion and fancy. My condition
is different, for it is strange. Deny it not ! God is all-powerful.

Argue not from the condition of common men, Stumble not at severity
and at mercy. For mercy and severity, joy and sorrow, are transient, and
transient things die; “God is heir of all.”  [7]
dawn! O protector and asylum of the dawn! Make excuse for me to my lord

Thou makest excuses for universal teason and soul.  [8]
of souls and gem of life art Thou!

The light of my dawn is a beam from Thy light, shining in the morning
draught of Thy protection! Since Thy gift keeps me, as it were, intoxicated,
what is this spiritual wine that causes me this joy? Natural wine lacks
the ferment in my breast, the spheres lag behind me in revolutions! Wine
is intoxicated with me, not I with it! The world takes its being from me,
not I from it! I am like bees, and earthly bodies like wax,  [9]
I build up these bodies as with my own wax!


The Harper

In the time of the Khalifa ‘Omar there lived a harper, whose voice was
as sweet as that of the angel Israfil, and who was in great request at
all feasts. But he grew old, and his voice broke, and no one would employ
him any longer. In despair he went to the burial ground of Yathrib, and
there played his harp to God, looking to Him for recompense. Having finished
his melody he fell asleep, and dreamed he was in Paradise. The same night
a divine voice came to ‘Omar, directing him to go to the burial ground,
and relieve an old man whom he should find there. ‘Omar proceeded to the
place, found the harper, and gave him money, promising him more when he
should need it. The harper cast away his harp, saying that it had diverted
him from God, and expressed great contrition for his past sins. ‘Omar then
instructed him that his worldly journey was now over, and that he must
not give way to contrition for the past, as he was now entered into the
state of ecstasy and intoxication of union with God, and in this exalted
state regard to past and future should be swept away. The harper acted
on his instructions, and sang no more.

Apology for applying the term “Bride” to God

Mustafa became beside himself at that sweet call, his prayer failed
on “the night of the early morning halt.” He lifted not head from that
blissful sleep,” [1] so that his morning prayer was
put off till noon. On that, his wedding night, in presence of his bride,
his pure soul attained to kiss her hands. Love and mistress are both veiled
and hidden, impute it not as a fault if I call Him “bride.”

I would have kept silence from fear of my beloved, if He had granted
me but a moment’s respite. But He said, “Speak on, ’tis no fault, ’tis
naught but the necessary result of the hidden decree, ’tis a fault only
to him who only sees faults. How can the pure hidden spirit notice faults?”
Faults seem so to ignorant creatures, not in the sight of the lord of benignity.

Blasphemy even may be wisdom in the Creator’s sight, whereas from our
point of view it is grievous sin. If one fault occur among a hundred beauties
’tis as one dry stick in a garden of green herbs. Both weigh equally in
the scales for the two resemble body and soul. Wherefore the sages have
said not idly, “the bodies of the righteous are as pure souls.” Their words,
their actions, their praises, are all as a pure soul without spot or blemish.

‘Omar rebukes the harper for brooding over and bewailing the past. Then
‘Omar said to him, “this wailing of thine shows thou art still in a state
of sobriety.” Afterwards he thus urged him to quit that state and called
him out of his beggary to absorption in God: “sobriety savours of memory
of the past; past and future are what veil God from our sight. Burn up
both of them with fire! How long wilt thou be partitioned by these segments
as a reed? So long as a reed has partitions ’tis not privy to secrets,
nor is it vocal in response to lip and breathing.

While circumambulating the house thou art a stranger; when thou enterest
in thou art at home. Thou whose knowledge is ignorance of the Giver of
knowledge, thy wailing contrition is worse than thy sin. The road of the
‘annihilated’ is another road; sobriety is wrong, and a straying from that
other road.

O thou who seekest to be contrite for the past, how wilt thou be contrite
for this contrition? At one time thou adorest the music of the lute, at
another embracest wailing and weeping.” While the “discerner” reflected
these mysteries, the heart of the harper was emancipated. Like a soul he
was freed from weeping and rejoicing, his old life died, and he was regenerated.

Amazement fell upon him at that moment, for he was exalted above earth
and heaven, an uplifting of the heart surpassing all uplifting. I cannot
describe it; if you can, say on! Ecstasy and words beyond all ecstatic
words. Immersion in the glory of the Lord of glory! Immersion wherefrom
was no extrication, as it were identification with the very Ocean! Partial
reason is as naught to universal reason, if one impulse dependent on another
impulse be naught. But when that impulse moves this impulse, the waves
of that sea rise to this point. [2]


The Arab and his Wife

An Arab lived with his wife in the desert in extreme poverty, so that
they became a reproach to their neighbours. The wife at last lost patience,
and began to abuse her husband, and to urge him to improve their condition.
The Arab rebuked her for her covetousness, reminding her that the Prophet
had said, “Poverty is my glory,” and showing her how poverty was a better
preparation for death than riches, and finally threatening to divorce her
if she persisted in her querulous ways. The wife, however, by blandishments
reduced her husband to obedience, as wives always do, and made him promise
to carry out her wishes. She directed him to go and represent their case
to the Khalifa at Baghdad, and to make him an offering of a pot of water,
that being the only present they could afford to make. Accordingly the
Arab travelled to Baghdad, and laid his offering at the feet of the Khalifa,
who received it graciously, and in return filled the pot with pieces of
gold, and then sent him back to his home in a boat up the river Tigris.
The Arab was lost in wonder at the benignity of the Khalifa, who had recompensed
him so bountifully for his petty offering of a drop of water. The story
contains several digressions, on Pharaoh, on the prophet Salih, and on
Adam and the angels, and the poet, apropos of its disconnectedness, compares
it to eternity, as it has no beginning and no end.


Men subdued by women’s wiles.

In this manner she pleaded with gentle coaxing, the while her tears
fell upon her cheeks. How could his firmness and endurance abide when even
without tears she could charm his heart?

That rain brought forth a flash of lightning which kindled a spark in
the heart of that poor man. Since the man was the slave of her fair face,
how was it when she stooped to slavish entreaties?

When she whose airs set thy heart a-quaking, when she weeps, how feelest
thou then? When she whose coquetry makes thy heart bleed condescends to
entreaties, how is it then? She who subdues us with her pride and severity,
what plea is left us when she begins to plead? When she who traded in naught
but bloodshed submits at last. Ah! what a profit she makes!

God has adorned them “fair in the sight of men.” [1]
From her whom God has adorned how can man escape? Since He created him
“to dwell together with her,” [2] how can Adam sever
himself from his Eve? Though he be Rustum, son of Zal, and braver than
Hamza, yet he is submissive to the behests of his dame. He by whose preaching
the world was entranced

was he who spake the two words, “O Humaira!” [3]

Though water prevails over fire in might, yet it boils by fire when
in a cauldron. When the cauldron intervenes between these two, air (desire)
makes as naught the action of the water. Apparently thou art the ruler
of thy wife, like water. In reality thou art ruled by and suppliant to
her. Such is the peculiarity of man, he cannot withstand animal desire.
That is his failing.

The Prophet said that women hold dominion over sages and over men of
heart, but that fools, again, hold the upper hand over women, because fools
are violent and exceedingly froward. They have no tenderness or gentleness
or amity, because the animal nature sways their temperament. Love and tenderness
are qualities of humanity, passion and lust are qualities of animality.
Woman is a ray of God, not a mere mistress, the Creator’s self, as it were,
not a mere creature!

Moses and Pharaoh, alike doers of God’s will, as Light and Darkness
— Poison and Antidote

Verily, both Moses and Pharaoh walked in the right way, though seemingly
the one did so, and the other not. By day Moses wept before God, at midnight
Pharaoh lifted up his cry, saying, “What a yoke is this upon my neck, O
God! Were it not for this yoke who would boast, ‘I am?’

Because Thou hast made Moses’ face bright as the moon, and hast made
the moon of my face black in the face. Can my star ever shine brighter
than the moon? If it be eclipsed, what remedy have I?

Though princes and kings beat drums, and men beat cymbals because of
my eclipse, [4] they beat their brass dishes and raise
a clamour, and make my moon ashamed thereby. I, who am Pharaoh, woe is
me! The people’s clamour confounds my boast, ‘I am Lord Supreme!’ [5]
Moses and I are Thy nurslings both alike, yet Thy axe cuts down the branches
in Thy woods.

Some of these branches Thou plantest in the ground, others Thou castest
away as useless. Can branch strive against axe? Not so. Can branch elude
the power of the axe? Nay, O Lord of the power that dwells in Thy axe,
in mercy make these crooked things straight!” Man and wife types of the
spirit and the flesh.

The dissension of this husband and wife is a parable. They are types
of thy animal and rational souls. This husband and wife are the reason
and the flesh, a couple joined together for good and for evil. And in this
earthly house this linked pair day and night are ever at variance and strife.

The wife is ever seeking dainties for domestic needs, namely, bread
and meat and her own dignity and position. Like the wife, the animal soul
seeks comfort, sometimes carnal, sometimes ambitious. Reason has no care
for these matters, in its mind is naught but regard to Allah. Though the
secret moral hereof is a bait and snare, hear its outward form to the end.

If spiritual manifestations had been sufficient, the creation of the
world had been needless and vain. If spiritual thought were equivalent
to love of God,  outward forms of temples and prayers would not exist.

Presents which friends make one to another are naught but signs and
indications, to give outward testimony and witness of the love concealed
within the heart. Because outward attentions are evidence of secret love,
O beloved! The witness may be true or false, now drunk with real wine,
now with sour whey. He who drinks fermented whey displays drunkenness and
makes a noise and reels to and fro.

That hypocrite in prayers and fasts displays exceeding diligence, that
men may think him drunk with love of God. But if you look into the truth,
he is drowned in hypocrisy. In fine, outward actions are guides to show
the way to what is concealed within. Sometimes the guide is true, sometimes
false, sometimes a help, and at other times a hindrance. O Lord, grant,
in answer to my prayers, discernment, that I may know such false signs
from the true! Know you how discernment accrues to the sense?

‘Tis when sense “sees by the light of Allah.” If effects are obscure,
still causes testify. Kindred, for instance, shows that there is love.
But he to whom God’s light is the guide is no longer a slave to effects
and causes. When the light of Allah illumines his senses, a man is no longer
a slave to effects. When love of God kindles a flame in the inward man,
he burns, and is freed from effects. He has no need of signs to assure
him of love, for love casts its own light up to heaven.

Other details are wanting to complete this subject, but take this much,
and all hail to you! Though reality is exposed to view in this form, form
is at once nigh to and far from reality.

For instance, these two resemble water and a tree. When you look to
their essence they are far apart. Yet see how quickly a seed becomes a
high tree out of water, along with earth and sunshine! If you turn your
eyes to their real essence, these two are far, far apart from each other!

But let us quit this talk of essences and properties, and return to
the story of those two wealth seekers. How God made Adam superior to the
Angels in wisdom and honour. He said, “By Allah, who knoweth hidden secrets,
who created pure Adam out of dust. In the form, three cubits high, which
He gave him, He displayed the contents of all spirits, all decrees!

Communicated to him the indelible tablet of existence, [6]
that he might know all that is written on those tablets, All that should
be first and last to endless eternity He taught him, with the knowledge
of his own ‘names,’ [7] so that the angels were beside
themselves at his instruction, and gained more sanctity from his sanctification.

The expansion of their minds, which Adam brought about, was a thing
unequalled by the expansion of the heavens. For the wide expanse of that
pure mind the wide space of the seven heavens was not enough.”

The Prophet said that God has declared, “I am not contained in aught
above or below, I am not contained in earth or sky, or even in highest
heaven. Know this for a surety, O beloved! Yet am I contained in the believer’s
heart! If ye seek Me, search in such hearts!” He said also, “Enter the
hearts of My servants [8] to gain the paradise of beholding
Me, O fearer of God.”

Highest heaven, with all its light and wide expanse, when it beheld
Adam, was shaken from its place! Highest heaven is greatness itself revealed.
But what is form when reality draws nigh? Every angel declared, “In times
of yore we bore friendship to the plains of earth. We were wont to sow
the seed of service on the earth, wherefore we bore a wondrous attachment
to it.

What was this attachment to that house of earth when our own natures
are heavenly? What was the friendship of lights like us to darkness? How
can light dwell together with darkness?

O Adam! that friendship arose from the scent of thee, because the earth
is the warp and weft of thy body. Thy earthly body was taken from there,
thy pure spirit of light was shed down from here! But our souls were enlightened
by thy spirit [9]

long, long before earth had diverted it to itself. We used to be on
earth, ignorant of the earth, ignorant of the treasure buried within it.

When we were commanded to depart from that place, we felt sorrow at
turning our steps away from it so that we raised many questions, saying,
‘O Lord! who will come to take our place? Wilt Thou barter the glory of
our praises and homage

for the vain babble (of men)?’ The commands of God then diffused joy
upon us. He said, ‘What are ye saying at such length?

What ye give tongue to so foolishly is as the words of spoiled children
to their father. I knew of Myself what ye thought, but I desired that ye
should speak it. As this boasting of yours is very improper, so shall My
mercy be shown to prevail over My wrath O angels. In order to show forth
that prevailing, I inspired that pretension to cavil and doubt. If you
say your say, and I forbear to punish you, the gainsayers of My mercy must
hold their peace.

My mercy equals that of a hundred fathers and mothers. Every soul that
is born is amazed thereat. Their mercy is as the foam of the sea of my
mercy. It is mere foam of waves, but the sea abides ever!

What more shall I say? In that earthly shell there is naught but foam
of foam of foam of foam! God is that foam. God is also that pure sea, for
His words are neither a temptation nor a vain boast. Plurality and partial
evil, though seemingly

opposed to Unity, subserve Good.

The story is now concluded with its ups and downs, like lovers’ musings,
without beginning or ending. It has no beginning, even as eternity, nor
ending, for ’tis akin to world without end. Or like water, each drop whereof
is at once beginning and end, and also has no beginning or end. But God
forbid! This story is not a vain fable, ’tis the ready money of your state
and mine, be sure! Before every Sufi who is enlightened whatever is past
is never mentioned.

When his whole thoughts are absorbed in present ecstasy, no thought
of consequences enters his mind. [l0] Arab, water pot,
and angels are all ourselves! “Whatsoever turneth from God is turned from
Him.” [11] Know the husband is reason, the wife lust
and greed. She is vested with darkness and a gainsayer of reason.

Learn now whence springs the root of this circumstance, from this, that
the Whole has parts of divers kinds. These parts of the Whole are not parts
in relation to it, not in the way that rose’s scent is a part of the rose.
The beauty of the green shoot is part of the rose’s beauty, but the turtle-dove’s
cooing is a part of that Bulbuls music. But if I engage in doubts and answers,

how can I give water to thirsty souls? Yet, if you are perplexed by
Whole and finite parts, have patience, for “patience is the key of joy.”

Be abstinent, abstinent from vague thoughts, since there are lions in
that desert (of thoughts). Abstinence is the prince of medicines, as scratching
only aggravates a scab. Abstinence is certainly the root of medicine. Practise
abstinence, see how it invigorates thy soul!

Accept this counsel and give ear thereto, that it may be to thee as
an earring of gold! Nay, not a mere earring, but that thou mayest be a
mine of gold, or that thou mayest surpass moon and Pleiades.

First, know creation is in various forms. Souls are as various as the
letters from Alif to Ya. In this variety of letters there seems disorder,
though in fact they agree in an integral unity. In one aspect they are
opposed, in another united. In one aspect capricious, in another serious.

The Day of Judgement is the day of the great review. Whoso is fair and
enlightened longs for that review. Whoso, like a Hindu, is black (with
sin), the day of review will sound the knell of his disgrace. Since he
has not a face like a sun,

he desires only night like to a veil! If his thorn puts not forth a
single rosebud, the spring in disclosing him is his foe. But he who is
from head to foot a perfect rose or lily, to him spring brings rejoicing.
The useless thorn desires the autumn, that autumn may associate itself
with the garden. And hide the rose’s beauty and the thorn’s shame, that
men may not see the bloom of the one and the other’s shame, that common
stone and pure ruby may appear all as one.

True, the gardener knows the difference even in autumn, but the sight
of one is better than the world’s sight. That one person is himself the
world, as He is the sun, and every star in heaven is a part of the sun.
That one person is himself the world, and the rest are all His dependants
and parasites, O man!

He is the perfect world, yet He is single. He holds in hand the writing
of the whole of existence. Wherefore all forms and colours of beauty cry
out, “Good news! good news! Lo! the spring is at hand!” If the blossoms
did not shine as bright helmets, how could the fruits display their globes?
When the blossoms are shed the fruits come to a head, when the body is
destroyed, the soul lifts up its head. The fruit is the substance, the
blossom only its form, blossom the good news, and fruit the promised boon.

When the blossoms fall, the fruit appears. When the former vanish the
fruit is tasted. Till bread is broken, how can it serve as food? Till the
grapes are crushed, how can they yield wine? Till citrons be pounded up
with drugs, how can they afford healing to the sick?


The Man who was Tattooed

It was the custom of the men of Qazwin to have various devices tattooed
upon their bodies. A certain coward went to the artist to have such a device
tattooed on his back, and desired that it might be the figure of a lion.
But when he felt the pricks of the needles he roared with pain, and said
to the artist, “What part of the lion are you now painting?” The artist
replied, “I am doing the tail.” The patient cried, “Never mind the tail;
go on with another part.” The artist accordingly began in another part,
but the patient again cried out and told him to try somewhere else. Wherever
the artist applied his needles, the patient raised similar objections,
till at last the artist dashed all his needles and pigments on the ground,
and refused to proceed any further. The Prophet’s counsels to ‘Ali to follow
the direction of the Pir or Spiritual Guide, and to endure his chastisements


The Prophet said to ‘Ali, “O ‘Ali, thou art the Lion of God, a hero
most valiant. Yet confide not in thy lion like valour, but seek refuge
under the palm trees of the ‘Truth.’

Whoso takes obedience as his exemplar shares its proximity to the ineffable
Presence. Do thou seek to draw near to reason; let not thy heart rely,
like others, on thy own virtue and piety. Come under the shadow of the
man of reason, thou canst not find it in the road of the traditionalists.
That man enjoys close proximity to Allah. Turn not away from obedience
to him in any wise. For he makes the thorn a bed of roses, and gives sight
to the eyes of the blind. His shadow on earth is as that of Mount Qaf,
his spirit is as a Simurgh soaring on high.

He lends aid to the slaves of the friends of God, and advances to high
place them who seek him. Were I to tell his praises till the last day,
my words would not be too many nor admit of curtailment, he is the sun
of the spirit, not that of the sky. For from his light, men and angels
draw life.

That sun is hidden in the form of a man, u  understand me! Allah
knows the truth. O ‘Ali, out of all forms of religious service

choose thou the shadow of that dear friend of God! Every man takes
refuge in some form of service, and chooses for himself some asylum. Do
thou seek refuge in the shadow of the wise man, that thou mayest escape
thy fierce secret foes.

Of all forms of service this is fittest for thee. Thou shalt surpass
all who were before thee. Having chosen thy director, be submissive to
him, even as Moses submitted to the commands of Khizr; [2]
Have patience with Khizr’s actions, O sincere one! Lest he say, ‘There
is a partition between us.’ Though he stave in thy boat, yet hold thy peace.
Though he slay a young man, heave not a sigh. God declares his hand to
be even as God’s hand, for He saith, ‘The hand of God is over their hands.’
hand of God impels him and gives him life. Nay, not life only, but an eternal

A friend is needed; travel not the road alone, take not thy own way
through this desert! Whoso travels this road alone only does so by aid
of the might of holy men. The hand of the director is not weaker than theirs.
His hand is none other than the grasp of Allah! If absent saints can confer
such protection, doubtless present saints are more powerful than absent.
If such food be bestowed on the absent, what dainties may not the guest
who is present expect?

The courtier who attends in the presence of the king is served better
than the stranger outside the gate. The difference between them is beyond
calculation. One sees the light, the other only the veil. Strive to obtain
entrance within, if thou wouldst not remain as a ring outside the door.

Having chosen thy director, be not weak of heart, nor yet sluggish and
lax as water and mud. But if thou takest umbrage at every rub, how wilt
thou become a polished mirror?”


The Lion who Hunted with the Wolf and the Fox.

A lion took a wolf and a fox with him on a hunting excursion, and succeeded
in catching a wild ox, an ibex, and a hare. He then directed the wolf to
divide the prey. The wolf proposed to award the ox to the lion, the ibex
to himself, and the hare to the fox. The lion was enraged with the wolf
because he had presumed to talk of “I” and “Thou,” and “My share” and “Thy
share” when it all belonged of right to the lion, and he slew the wolf
with one blow of his paw. Then, turning to the fox, he ordered him to make
the division. The fox, rendered wary by the fate of the wolf, replied that
the whole should be the portion of the lion. The lion, pleased with his
self abnegation, gave it all up to him, saying, “Thou art no longer a fox,
but myself.”


Till man destroys “self” he is no true friend of God.

Once a man came and knocked at the door of his friend. His friend said,
“who art thou. O faithful one?” He said, “‘Tis I.”

He answered, “There is no admittance. There is no room for the ‘raw’
at my well cooked feast.  Naught but fire of separation and absence
can cook the raw one and free him from hypocrisy! Since thy ‘self’ has
not yet left thee, thou must be burned in fiery flames.”

The poor man went away, and for one whole year journeyed burning with
grief for his friend’s absence. His heart burned till it was cooked; then
he went again and drew near to the house of his friend. He knocked at the
door in fear and trepidation

lest some careless word might fall from his lips.

His friend shouted, “Who is that at the door?”

He answered, “‘Tis Thou who art at the door. O  beloved!” The friend
said, “Since ’tis I, let me come in, there is not room for two ‘I’s’ in
one house.”


Joseph and the Mirror

An old friend came to pay his respects to Joseph, and, after some remarks
upon the bad behaviour of his brethren, Joseph asked him what present he
had brought to show his respect. The friend replied that he had long considered
what gift would be most suitable to offer, and at last had fixed upon a
mirror, which he accordingly produced from his pocket and presented to
Joseph, at the same time begging him to admire his own beauteous face in


Defect and Not-being — The mirror wherein Absolute Perfect Being
is reflected

He drew forth a mirror from his side a mirror is what beauty busies
itself with. Since not-being is the mirror of being, if you are wise, choose
not-being (self-abnegation).

Being may be displayed in that not-being, wealthy men show their liberality
on the poor. He who is hungered is the clear mirror of bread, the tinder
is the mirror of the flint and steel. Not-being and defect, wherever they
occur, are the mirrors of the beauty of all beings. Because Not-being is
a clear filtered essence, wherein all these beings are infused.

When a garment is made by a good tailor, ‘is an evidence of the tailor’s
art. Logs of wood would not be duly shaped did not the carpenter plan outline
and detail. The leech skilled in setting bones goes where lies the patient
with a broken leg. If there were no sick and infirm, how could the excellence
of the leech’s art be seen? If vile base copper were not mingled, how could
the alchemist show his skill? Defects are the mirrors of the attributes
of Beauty, the base is the mirror of the high and Glorious One, because
one contrary shows forth its contrary, [2] as honey’s
sweetness is shown by vinegar’s sourness.

Whoso recognizes and confesses his own defects is hastening in the
way that leads to perfection! But he advances not towards the Almighty
who fancies himself to be perfect. No sickness worse than fancying thyself
perfect can infect thy soul, O arrogant misguided one! Shed many tears
of blood from eyes and heart, that this self-satisfaction may be driven
out. The fault of Iblis lay in saying, “I am better than he,” [3]
and this same weakness lurks in the soul of all creatures.


The Prophet’s Scribe

The Prophet had a scribe who used to write down the texts that fell
from his lips. At last this scribe became so conceited that he imagined
all this heavenly wisdom proceeded from his own wit, and not from the Prophet.
Puffed up with self-importance, he fancied himself inspired, and his heart
was hardened against his master, and he became a renegade, like the fallen
angels Harut and Marut. He took his own foolish surmises to be the truth,
whereas they were all wide of the mark, as those of the deaf man who went
to condole with a sick neighbour and answered all his remarks at cross

How philosophers deceive themselves

On the last day, [1] “when earth shall quake with
quaking,” this earth shall give witness of her condition. For she “shall
tell out her tidings openly.” Yes, earth and her rocks shall tell them
forth! The philosopher reasons from base analogies (True reason comes not
out of a dark corner); the philosopher (I say) denies this in his pride
of intellect.

Say to him, “Go, dash thy head against a wall!” The speech of water,
of earth, of mire, is audible by the ears of men of heart!

The philosopher, who denies Divine Providence, is a stranger to the
perceptions of saints. He says that the flashes of men’s morbid imaginations
instil many vain fancies into men’s minds. But, on the contrary, ’tis his
perverseness and want of faith

which implant in himself this vain fancy of negation. The philosopher
denies the existence of the Devil; at the same time he is the Devil’s laughing-stock.

If thou hast not seen the Devil, look at thyself, without demon’s aid
how came that blue turban [2] on thy brow? Whosoever
has a doubt or disquietude in his heart is a secret denier and philosopher.
Now and then he displays firm belief, but that slight dash of philosophy
blackens his face.

Beware, O believers! That lurks in you too; you may develop innumerable
states of mind. All the seventy and two heresies lurk in you. Have a care
lest one day they prevail over you! He in whose breast the leaf of true
faith is grown must tremble as a leaf from fear of such a catastrophe.
Thou makest a mock of Iblis and the Devil, because thou art a fine man
in thy own sight. But when thy soul shall tell thy wretched faults, what
lamentation thou wilt cause to the faithful!

The sellers of base gold sit smiling in their shops, because the touchstone
is not as yet in their sight. O Veiler of sins! Strip not the veil from
us. Lend us aid on the day of trial!


The Chinese and the Greek Artists

The Chinese and the Greeks disputed before the Sultan which of them
were the better painters; and, in order to settle the dispute, the Sultan
allotted to each a house to be painted by them. The Chinese procured all
kinds of paints, and coloured their house in the most elaborate way. The
Greeks, on the other hand, used no colours at all, but contented themselves
with cleansing the walls of their house from all filth, and burnishing
them till they were as clear and bright as the heavens. When the two houses
were offered to the Sultan’s inspection, that painted by the Chinese was
much admired; but the Greek house carried off the palm, as all the colours
of the other house were reflected on its walls with an endless variety
of shades and hues.


Knowledge of the heart [is] preferable to the knowledge of the schools.
The knowledge of men of heart bears them up, the knowledge of men of the
body weighs them down. When ’tis knowledge of the heart, it is a friend.
When knowledge of the body, it is a burden. God saith, “As an ass bearing
a load of books,” [1] the knowledge which is not of
Him is a burden. Knowledge which comes not immediately from Him endures
no longer than the rouge of the tirewoman.

Nevertheless, if you bear this burden in a right spirit ’twill be removed,
and you will obtain joy. See you bear not that burden out of vainglory,
then you will behold a store of true knowledge within. When you mount the
steed of this true knowledge,

straightway the burden will fall from your back. If you drink not His
cup, how will you escape lusts? You, who seek no more of Him than to name
His name? What do His name and fame suggest?

The idea of Him. And the idea of Him guides you to union with Him. Know
you a guide without something to which it guides? Were there no roads there
would be no ghouls. Know you a name without a thing answering to it? Have
you ever plucked a rose (Gul) from Gaf and Lam? You name his name; go,
seek the reality named by it! Look for the moon in heaven, not in the water!

If you desire to rise above mere names and letters, m make yourself
free from self at one stroke! Like a sword be without trace of soft iron.
Like a steel mirror, scour off all rust with contrition; make yourself
pure from all attributes of self, that you may see your own pure bright

Yes, see in your heart the knowledge of the Prophet, without book, without
tutor, without preceptor. The Prophet saith, “He is one of my people, whoso
is of like temper and spirit with me. His soul beholds me by the selfsame
light whereby I myself behold Him, without traditions and scriptures and
histories, in the fount of the water of life.”

Learn the mystery, “I was last night a Kurd, and this morning am become
an Arab.” [2] This mystery of “last night” and “this
morning” leads you into the road that brings you to God. But if you want
an instance of this secret knowledge, hear the story of the Greeks and
the Chinese.


Counsels of Reserve given by the Prophet to his Freedman Zaid.

At dawn the Prophet said to Zaid, “How is it with thee this morning,
O pure disciple?” He replied, “Thy faithful slave am I.” Again he said,
“If the garden of faith has bloomed, show a token of it.” He answered,
“I was athirst many days, by night I slept not for the burning pangs of
love; so that I passed by days and nights, as the point of a spear glances
off a shield.

For in that state all faith is one, a hundred thousand years and a moment
are all one. World without beginning and world without end are one. Reason
finds no entrance when mind is thus lost.”

The Prophet again urged Zaid to deliver to him a present from that celestial
region, as a token that he had really been there in the spirit. Zaid answered
that he had seen the eight heavens and the seven hells, and the destinies
of all men, whether bound to heaven or hell. The body, he said, is as a
mother, and the soul as her infant, and death is the time of parturition,
when it becomes manifest to what class the infant soul belongs. As, on
the day of judgement it will be manifest to all men whether a soul belongs
to the saved or to the lost, so now it was plain and manifest to him. He
went on to ask the Prophet if he should publish this secret knowledge of
his to all men, or hold his peace.

The Prophet told him to hold his peace. Zaid, however, proceeded to
detail the vision of the last judgement, which he had seen when in the
spirit; and the Prophet again commanded him to pause, adding that” God
is never ashamed to say the truth,”  Allah’s Prophets do speak forth
the truth, but for Zaid to blab forth the secrets seen in ecstatic vision
would be wrong. Zaid replied that it was impossible for one who had once
beheld the Sun of “The Truth” to keep his vision a secret. But the Prophet
in reply instructed him that all men are masters of their own wills, and
that he must not reveal what God has determined to keep secret till the
last day, in order to leave men till then under the stimulus of hope and
fear, and to give them the credit of “believing what is not seen.” [2]

More honour is given to the warder of a castle who faithfully executes
his trust at a distance from the court than to those courtiers who serve
constantly under the king’s own eye. Zaid submitted to the Prophet’s injunctions,
and remained self-contained in his ecstatic visions. Anecdotes of the sage
Luqman, of King Solomon, and of a conflagration in the days of the Khalifa
‘Omar complete the section.


The Prophet’s final counsels of “Reserve”.

The Prophet said, “My companions are as the stars, lights to them that
walk aright, missiles against Satan. If every man had strength of eyesight
to look straight at the light of the sun, what need were there of stars,
O humble one, to one who was guided by the light of the sun? Neither moon
nor planets would be needed by one who saw directly the Sun of the Truth.
The Moon [3] declares, as also the clouds and shadows,
‘ I am a man, yet it hath been revealed to me.’ [4]
you, I was naturally dark, ’twas the sun’s revelation that gave me such
light. I still am dark compared to the sun, though I am light compared
to the dark souls of men.

Therefore is my light weak, that you may bear it, for you are not strong
enough to bear the dazzling sun. I have, as it were, mixed honey with vinegar,
to succour the sickness of your hearts. When you are cured of your sickness,
O invalid, then leave out the vinegar and eat pure honey. When the heart
is garnished and swept clear of lust, therein ‘The God of Mercy sitteth
on His throne.’ [5] Then God rules the heart immediately,
when it has gained this immediate connection with Him. This subject is
endless.  But where is Zaid, that I may tell him again not to seek
notoriety? ‘Tis not wise to publish these mysteries, since the last day
is approaching to reveal all things.” Now you will not find Zaid, for he
is fled, he sprang from the place where the shoes were left, [6]
Scattering the shoes in his hurry. If you had been Zaid, you too would
have been lost, as a star is lost when the sun shines on it. For then you
see no trace or sign of it, no place or track of it in the milky way. Our
senses and our endless discourses are annihilated in the light of the knowledge
of our king.

Our senses and our reason within us are as waves on waves “assembled
before us.” [7] When night returns and ’tis the time
of the sky’s levee, the stars that were hidden come forth to their work.
The people of the world lie unconscious, with veils drawn over their faces,
and asleep. But when the morn shall burst forth and the sun arise, every
creature will raise its head from its couch. To the unconscious God will
restore consciousness. They will stand in rings as slaves with rings in
ears. Dancing and clapping hands with songs of praise, singing with joy,
“Our Lord hath restored us to life!” Shedding their old skins and bones,
as horsemen stirring up a cloud of dust. All pressing on from not-being
to being, on the last day, as well the thankful as the unthankful.


‘Ali’s Forbearance

‘Ali, the “Lion of God,” was once engaged in conflict with a Magian
chief, and in the midst of the struggle the Magian spat in his face. ‘Ali,
instead of taking vengeance on him, at once dropped his sword, to the Magian’s
great astonishment. On his inquiring the reason of such forbearance, ‘Ali
informed him that the “Lion of God” did not destroy life for the satisfaction
of his own vengeance, but simply to carry out God’s will, and that whenever
he saw just cause, he held his hand even in the midst of the strife, and
spared the foe. The Prophet, ‘Ali continued, had long since informed him
that he would die by the hand of his own stirrup bearer (Ibn Maljun), and
the stirrup bearer had frequently implored ‘Ali to kill him, and thus save
him from the commission of that great crime; but ‘Ali said he always refused
to do so, as to him death was as sweet as life, and he felt no anger against
his destined assassin, who was only the instrument of God’s eternal purpose.
The Magian chief, on hearing ‘Ali’s discourse, was so much affected that
he embraced Islam, together with all his family, to the number of fifty


How the Prophet whispered to ‘Ali’s stirrup bearer that he would
one day assassinate his master.

“The Prophet whispered in the ear of my servant that one day he would
sever my head from my neck. The Prophet also warned by inspiration me,
his friend, that the hand of my servant would destroy me. My servant cried,
“O kill me first, that I may not become guilty of so grievous a sin!”

I replied, “Since my death is to come from thee, how can I balk the
fateful decree?” He fell at my feet and cried, “O gracious lord, for God’s
sake cleave now my body in twain, that such an evil deed may not be wrought
by me, and my soul burn with anguish for its beloved.”

I replied, “What God’s pen has written, it has written; in presence
of its writings knowledge is confounded. There is no anger in my soul against
thee, because I attribute not this deed to thee. Thou art God’s instrument.
God’s hand is the agent. How can I chide or fret at God’s instrument?”

He said, “If this be so, why is there retaliation?” [1]
I answered, ” ‘Tis from God, and ’tis God’s secret. If He shows displeasure
at His own acts, from His displeasure He evolves a Paradise. He feels displeasure
at His own acts, because He is a God of vengeance as of mercy. In this
city of events He is the Lord, in this realm, He is the king who plans
all events. If He crushes His own instruments, He makes those crushed ones
fair in His sight. Know the great mystery of ‘whatever verses We cancel,
or cause you to forget, We substitute better for them.’ “[2]
Whatever law God cancels, He makes as a weed, and in its stead He brings
forth a rose. So night cancels the business of the daytime, when the reason
that lights our minds becomes inanimate. Again, night is cancelled by the
light of day, and inanimate reason is rekindled to life by its rays.

Though darkness produces this sleep and quiet, is not the ‘water of
life’ in the darkness? [3] Are not spirits refreshed
in that very darkness? Is not that silence the season of heavenly voices?
For from contraries contraries are brought forth, out of darkness was created
light. The Prophet’s wars brought about the present peace, the peace of
these latter days resulted from those wars. That conqueror of hearts cut
off a thousand heads, that the heads of his people might rest in peace.”

God’s rebuke to Adam for scorning Iblis [Satan]

To whomsoever God’s order comes, he must smite with his sword even his
own child. Fear then, and revile not the wicked, for the wicked are impotent
under God’s commands. In presence of God’s commands bow down the neck of
pride. Scoff not nor chide even them that go astray! One day Adam cast
a look of contempt and scorn upon Iblis, thinking what a wretch he was.
He felt self-important and proud of himself, and he smiled at the actions
of cursed Iblis.

God Almighty cried out to him, “O pure one, thou art wholly ignorant
of hidden mysteries. If I were to blab the faults of the unfortunate, I
should root up the mountains from their bases, and lay bare the secrets
of a hundred Adams, and convert a hundred fresh Iblises into Mussalmans.”
Adam answered, “I repent me of my scornful looks. Such arrogant thoughts
shall not be mine again. O Lord, pardon this rashness in Thy slave. I repent;
chastise me not for these words!”

O Aider of aid-seekers, guide us, for there is no security in knowledge
or wealth. “Lead not our hearts astray after Thou hast guided us,” [4]
and avert the evil that the “Pen” has written. Turn aside from our souls
the evil written in our fates, repel us not from the tables of purity!
O God, Thy grace is the proper object of our desire. To couple others with
Thee is not proper.

Nothing is bitterer than severance from Thee, without Thy shelter there
is naught but perplexity. Our worldly goods rob us of our heavenly goods,
our body rends the garment of our soul. Our hands, as it were, prey on
our feet. Without reliance on Thee how can we live? And if the soul escapes
these great perils, it is made captive as a victim of misfortunes and fears,

Inasmuch as when the soul lacks union with the beloved, it abides forever
blind and darkened by itself. If Thou showest not the way, our life is
lost. A life living without Thee esteem as dead! If Thou findest fault
with Thy slaves, verily it is right in Thee, O blessed one! If Thou shouldst
call sun and moon obscure, if Thou shouldst call the straight cypress crooked,

If Thou shouldst declare the highest heaven base, or rich mines and
oceans paupers, all this is the truth in relation to Thy perfection! Thine
is the dominion and the glory and the wealth! For Thou art exempt from
defect and not-being. Thou givest existence to things non-existent, and
again Thou makest them non-existent.


Alas! the forbidden fruits were eaten, and thereby the warm life of
reason was congealed. A grain of wheat eclipsed the sun Of Adam, like as
the dragon’s tail dulls the brightness of the moon. Behold how delicate
is the heart, that a morsel of dust

clouded its moon with foul obscurity! When bread is “substance,” to
eat it nourishes us. When ’tis empty “form,” it profits nothing. Like as
the green thorn which is cropped by the camel, and then yields him pleasure
and nutriment. When its greenness has gone and it becomes dry, if the camel
crops that same thorn in the desert, it wounds his palate and mouth without
pity, as if conserve of roses should turn to sharp swords. When bread is
“substance,” it is as a green thorn. When ’tis “form,” ’tis as the dry
and coarse thorn.

And thou eatest it in the same way as of yore thou were wont to eat
it, O helpless being, eatest this dry thing in the same manner, after the
real “substance” is mingled with dust. It has become mingled with dust,
dry in pith and rind. O camel, now beware of that herb! The Word is become
foul with mingled earth. The water is become muddy. Close the mouth of
the well, till God makes it again pure and sweet. Yes, till He purifies
what He has made foul.

Patience will accomplish thy desire, not haste. Be patient, God knows
what is best.



1. Love signifies the strong attraction that draws
all creatures back to reunion with their Creator.

2. Self-annihilation leads to eternal life in God the
universal Noumenon, by whom all phenomena subsist. See Gulshan i Raz, I.

3. “Raw” and “Ripe” are terms for “Men of externals”
and “Men of heart” or Mystics.

4. Alluding to the giving of the law on Mount Sinai.
Koran vii. 139.

5. All phenomenal existences (man included) are but
“veils” obscuring the face of the Divine Noumenon, the only real existence,
and the moment His sustaining presence is withdrawn they at once relapse
into their original nothingness. See Gulshan i Raz, I. 165.

6. So Bernard of Clairvaux. See Gulshan i Raz, I. 435.


1. As enjoined in Koran xviii. 23. One cannot converse
with a strict Mussalman for five minutes without hearing the formula, “Insha
Allah Ta’alla,” or D. V.

2. Koran xviii. 73.

3. Koran liv. I.

4. There is a tradition, “I know my Lord by my Lord.”

5. See Gulshan i Raz, I. 400. In the state of union
self remains not.

6. The Sufi is the “son of the time present,” because
he is an Energumen, or passive instrument moved by the divine impulse of
the moment. “The time present is a sharp sword,” because the divine impulse
of the moment dominates the Energumen, and executes its decrees sharply.
See Sohravardi quoted in Notices et Extraits des MSS., xii. 371 note.

7. “When its Lord appears in glory to the Mount of
existence, Existence is laid low, like the dust of the road.” Gulshan i
Raz, I. 195.


1. These are all figures and types of self-annihilation
in order to the acquisition of eternal life in God.


1. Compare the story of Zopyrus, Herodotus, iii.

2. John xiv. 26: “But the Comforter (parakletos)
shall teach you all things.” Mosalmans read periklytos, “praised” = Muhammad.

3. Dajjal, i.e., Antichrist. Sale, Prelim. Discourse,
p. 57.

4. Said of the Seven Sleepers in the cave. Koran
xviii. 17; “Knower” = the Gnostic who through ecstasy beholds divine verities.

5. This was the doctrine of the Jabriyan or extreme

6. i.e.. Hide not thy light (of good works or of
self-denial) under a bushel.

7. Alluding to the doctrine of the Trinity.


1. Koran lxxxv.

2. Koran, xxxv. II.

3. Sweet savour, i.e., the joy of heart experienced
by the offerer of prayer when his prayer is accepted of God. See Book II.
Story XVII.


1. “Trust in God and keep your powder dry.”

2. “Laborare est orare.”

3. Koran ii. 341.

4. “And He taught Adam the names of all things” (Koran
ii. 29).

5. The angels said, “We have no knowledge but what
thou hast given us to know” (Koran ii. 30).

6. See Gulshan i Raz, I. 543.

7. Koran xviii. 17.

8. See Gulshan i Raz, I. 575: The ocean of Reason
is the same as what is elsewhere called the ocean of Being, viz., the Noumenon,
or Divine substratum of all phenomenal being and thought.

9. “Those arrows were God’s, not vours” (Koran viii.
17); i.e., Man’s reason proceeds from God, the “Only Real Agent.”

10. Alluding to the “Believer’s lost camel ” (Book
II. Story XII., infra.). Men seek wisdom, and do not know that in themselves
is the reflected wisdom of God (Gulshan i Raz, I. 435).

11. The real Soul, i.e., the spirit which God “breathed
into man” (Koran xv. 29). “In yourselves are signs; will ye not behold
them?” (Koran li, 21).

12. See Gulshan i Raz, I. 92. Mr. Mansel (Bampton
Lectures, p. 49) says: “A thing can be known as that which it is only by
being distinguished from that which it is not.” But the Infinite Deity
ex hypothesi includes all things; so there is nothing to contrast Him with.

13. Koran vi. 103.

14. Koran vii. 139: “He said, ‘Thou shalt not see

15. Koran ii. 151.

16. See Gulshan i Raz, I. 645: All phenomena are
every moment renewed by fresh effluxes of being from the Divine Noumenon.

17. See Gulshan i Raz, I. 710.


1. The poet’s insistence on the doctrine of God being
the Fa’il i Hakiki, or Only Real Agent, without whose word no being and
no action can be, leads him to the question of freewill and compulsion
of man’s will (see Gulshan i Raz, I. 555).

2. So Gulshan i Raz, I. 442.

3. The leading principle of all mysticism is that,
independently of sense and reason, man possesses an inward sense, or intuition,
which conveys to him a knowledge of God by direct apprehension (see Gulshan
i Raz. I. 431).

4. Their wills are identified with God’s will, as
in the case of the saint Daquqi (infra, Book III. Story XII.)

5. As a sign of the last day (Koran liv. 1).


1. This is a comment on the saying of Faridu-‘d-Din
Attar, “Thou art a man of lusts, O fool! In dust eat blood! but if a man
of heart eats poison, ’tis as honey.”

2. See Koran xxi. 68, and Rodwell’s note.

3. This is a comment on the Hadis, “Verily Sa’d is
a jealous man, and I am more jealous than he, and God is more jealous than
I, and of His jealousy He prohibits ‘All pollutions, both outward and inward.’”
(Koran vi. 152.)

4. This is a quotation from Hakim Sanai, and forms
the text of the following discourse.

5. See Gulshan i Raz, I. 140, and Omar Khayyam Quatr.,

6. See Gulshan i Raz, I. 745: Frowns are the occultation
of the Beloved by the veil of phenomena; smiles, the revelation of Absolute
Being to its votaries. Sa’di (Gulistan, Book II. Story XI.) says: “The
vision, of God to the pious consists of manifestation and occultation;
He shows Himself, and again withdraws Himself from our sight.”

7. Koran xv. 23.

8. i.e., the Logos, and First Soul, upposed to be
referred to in the text: “O men, fear your Lord, who hath created you from
one Soul, and of him created his wife” (Koran iv. I). See Gulshan i Raz,
I. 203.

9. i.e., in his spiritual exaltation he feels himself
as the Logos, where from the whole material creation emanates.


1. The night of his marriage with Safiyya.

2. i.e., he is possessed by the Deity as an “Energumen,”
and the Deity works these ecstatic states in him.


1. Koran iii. 12.

2. Koran iii. 189.

3. Muhammad said these words to his wife, Ayisha.

4. Compare the ancient custom of ringing bells to
still thunder.

5. Koran lxxix. 24. Pharaoh’s boast.

6. The tablet on which God writes His eternal decrees.

7. Koran ii. 29.

8. Koran lxxxix. 29.

9. The Logos, the first of created beings, was afterwards
embodied in Adam, the “Perfect Man,” or Microcosm.

10. He is the “son of the time present and instant,”
as said above.

11. Koran li. 9.


1. i.e., the Pir, or Perfect Shaikh, or Spiritual
Director. So St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa enjoin obedience to
the Director (Vaughan, xii. 122).

2. See Koran xviii. 77 for the story of Moses and
Khizr. It is also given in Parnell’s ‘Hermit.’

3. Koran xlviii. 10.


1. Compare the parallel passage in Gulshan i Raz,
1. 135, and the notes thereon.

2. Cp. “Religio Medici,” Sect. 35: “Herein is divinity
conformant unto philosophy, and not only generation founded on contrarieties,
but also creation. God, being all things, is contrary unto nothing; out
of which were made all things, and so nothing became something, and Omneity
informed nullity into existence.”

3. Koran vii. II.


1. Koran xcix. 1-4.

2. Blue turbans were considered a sign of hypocrisy
(Hafiz, Ode 5).


1. Koran lxii. 5.

2. Syad Abu’l Wafa, an unlettered Kurd, found a
paper with the words Bismillah upon it, and, after spending the night in
prayer, found himself able to understand Arabic (Lucknow Commentator).


1. Koran xxxiii. 53.

2. Koran ii. 2.

3. i.e., the Prophet.

4. Koran xviii. 110.

5. Koran xx. 4.

6. i.e., the vestibule of the house.

7. Koran xxxvi. 53.


1. i,e., why is the rule “an eye for an eye” enjoined
in the Koran, ii. 173?

2. Koran ii, 100.

3. Alluding to the “water of life” in the land of
darkness discovered by Khizr.

4. Koran iii. 6.

I …
This entire book was originally written
as a poem in rhythmic poetic couplets, hence Rumi entitled it “
i Ma’navi:

Spiritual Couplets of Maulana Jalalu-‘d’Din Muhammed i Rumi”.

However, the poetic style could not be maintained when translating it to

E.H. Whinfield published this as one long poem of about 7 words per line.
It made it difficult to read because of this. For those who wish to see
it as originally published by E.H. Whinfield click
. We have removed the poetic style (appx. 7 words per line)
so that it now reads like a book. E.H. Whinfield’s translation was not
altered except for spelling mistakes. However on a few occasions [square
brackets] were used to indicate an alteration or explanation by the editor.
Most commas, periods and semi-colons were retained (with exceptions for
grammatical reasons). So really all that has been changed is the number
of words per line so that they are now complete sentences. Insha Allah
this should make it easier to read.

original Persian of this book by Maulana Rumi, however, was very lyrical
and poetic. Unfortunately, especially because it is poetry, it cannot be
rendered into English with the same force and power of the original manuscript.

Throughout this Mathnawi, you will find
that because this is a very early edition (1898), the Quranic quotes do
not seem to match up with the citation given by Whinfield. However, quite
often you will find that the references do occur about 4-8 ayats before
or after the given citation. Therefore, to find the exact quotes, you may
have to read up to 8 verses before or after the given citation.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.