Masnavi i Ma’navi: the Spiritual Couplets of Maulana Jalalu-’d’Din Muhammed i Rumi – Book 2



and Translated by E.H. Whinfield © 1898

Book II


I The Sufi’s Beast

II The Pauper and the Prisoners

III The King and his Two Slaves

IV The Falcon and the Owls

V The Thirsty Man who threw Bricks into the Water

VI Luqman’s Master examines him and discovers his Acuteness

VII Moses and the Shepherd

VIII The Man who made a Pet of a Bear

IX The Gardener and the Three Friends

X Bayazid and the Saint

XI Mo’avia and Iblis

XII The Four Hindustanis who censured one another

XIII The Old Man and the Physician

XIV The Arab Carrier and the Scholar

The Man who boasted that
God did not punish him for his sins, and Jethro’s answer to him.

XVI The Gluttonous Sufi

XVII The Tree of Life

XVIII The Young Ducks who were brought up under a Hen


THE composition of this Mathnawi has been delayed for a season.[1][See
after first reading note 1 here.
] Time is needed
for blood to become milk. Till thy fortune comes forth as a new-born babe,
blood becomes not milk, sweet and pleasant to the mind. When that light
of God, Husamu-‘d-Din, turned his course down from the summit of Paradise,
while he had ascended to sublimest verities. In the absence of his spring
the buds blossomed not, but when out of that sea he came to shore, the
lute of the poesy of the Mathnawi sounded again.

This Mathnawi, which is the polisher of spirits, its recommencement
occurred on the day of “Opening.” The commencement date of this precious
work was the year six hundred and sixty-two of the Flight. The bulbul started
on this date and became a hawk. Yes, a hawk to hunt out these mysteries.
May the wrist of the king be the resting place of this hawk, and may this
door be open to the people for ever!


The Sufi’s Beast

After anecdotes of the man, in the time of ‘Umar, who mistook his eyelash
for the new moon, of one who stole a snake and got bitten by it, and of
‘Isa’s [Jesus] foolish disciple who besought the Lord to teach him the
spell whereby he raised the dead, comes the following story.

A certain Sufi, after a long day’s journey, arrived at a monastery,
where he put up for the night, and strictly enjoined his servant to groom
his ass carefully and give him plenty of litter and fodder. The servant
assured him that his minute directions were superfluous, and promised to
attend to the ass most carefully; but when his master’s back was turned,
he neglected the ass and the poor animal remained all night without water
or food. Consequently he was weak and unfit to travel next morning, and
in spite of the blows and kicks that were showered on him, could not carry
his master and had to be led.

The other Sufis, who were travelling with his owner, thought that the
ass was useless and when they arrived at the place where they halted for
the night, they sold the ass to a traveller, and with the proceeds of the
sale bought delicate viands and torches and made a feast. The owner of
the ass, who was ignorant of this transaction, shared the feast, and joined
in the chorus sung by the others, “The ass is gone, the ass is gone,” without
attaching any sense to the words, and blindly following their example.
Next morning he asked his servant what had become of the ass, and the servant
told him it had been sold, adding that he thought he had known it overnight,
because he had heard him singing “The ass is gone” along with the other

In the course of this story there occur anecdotes of God consulting
with the angels as to the creation of man, of a king who lost his hawk
and found it again in the house of a poor old man, and of Shaikh Ahmad
Khizrawiya buying sweetmeats for his creditors.

Why the poet veils his doctrines in fables.

What is it hinders me from expounding my doctrines but this, that my
hearers’ hearts incline elsewhere. Their thoughts are intent on that Sufi
guest. They are immersed in his affairs neck deep. So I am compelled to
turn from my discourse to that story, and to set forth his condition. But,
O friend, think not this Sufi a mere outward form, as children see in a
vine nothing but raisins. O son, our bodies are as dried grapes and raisins.
If you are a man, cast away these things. If you pass on to the pure mysteries
of God, you will be exalted above the nine heavenly spheres.

Now hear the outward form of my story, but yet separate the grain from
the chaff.

Why the prophets were sent.

God sent the prophets for this purpose, namely to sever infidelity from
faith. God sent the prophets to mankind that they might gather the pure
grain on their tray. Infidel and faithful, Mussalman and Jew, before the
prophets came, seemed all as one. Before they came we were all alike [and]
no-one knew whether he was right or wrong. Genuine coin and base coin were
current alike.

The world was a night, and we travellers in the dark, till the sun of
the prophets arose, and cried, “Begone O slumber; welcome, O pure light!”
Now the eye sees how to distinguish colours, it sees the difference between
rubies and pebbles.

The eye distinguishes jewels from dust, Hence it is dust makes the
eyes smart. Makers of base coin hate the daylight, coins of pure gold love
the daylight, because daylight is the mirror that reflects them, so that
they see their own perfect beauty.

Mystical Meaning of “Daylight”

God has named the resurrection “that day”. [This] day shows off the
beauty of red and yellow. Wherefore “day” in ‘truth is the mystery of the
saints. One day of their moons is as whole years. Know, “day ” is the reflection
of the mystery of the saints, eye-closing night that of their hidden secrets.
Therefore hath God revealed the chapter “Daylight,” [1]
which daylight is the light of the heart of Mustafa. On the other view,
that daylight means “the friend,” it is also a reflection of the same prophet.
For, as it is wrong to swear by a transitory being, how can we suppose
a transitory being spoken of by God? The friend of God said, “I love not
them that set?” [2] How, then, could Allah have meant
a transitory being?

Again, the words “by the night” mean Muhammad’s veiling, namely, the
fair earthly body that he bore. When his sun proceeded from Paradise into
that body’s night, it said, “He hath not forsaken thee.” Union with God
arose out of the depth of that disgrace. That boon was the word, “He hath
not been displeased.”

Expressions of religious or other feeling derive their only value from
the state of mind from which they proceed. Every expression is the sign
of a state of mind. That state is a hand, the expression an instrument.
A goldsmith’s instruments in the hand of a cobbler are as grains of wheat
sown on sand. The tools of a cobbler in the hand of a cultivator are as
grass before a dog or bones before an ass.

The words, “I am the Truth” were light in Mansur’s [3]
mouth. In the mouth of Pharaoh “I am Lord Supreme” was blasphemy.

The staff in the hand of Moses was a witness, in the hands of the magicians
it was naught. For this cause ‘Isa taught not to that foolish man the words
of power whereby he raised the dead. For he who is ignorant misuses the
instrument . If you strike flint on mud, you will get no fire. Hand and
instrument resemble flint and steel. You must have a pair. A pair is needed
to generate. He who has no peer or member is the “one,” an uneven number,
one without dispute! Whoso says “one” and “two,” and so on, confesses thereby
the existence of the “one.”

When the illusion of seeing double is swept away, they who say “one”
and “two” are even as they who say “one.”

If you take “one” as your ball in His tennis field, it is made to revolve
by the strokes of His bat. [4] Yes, the ball that is
even and without fault is made to revolve by the strokes of the king’s
hand. O man of double vision, [5] hearken with attention.

Seek a cure for your defective sight by listening. Many are the holy
words that find no entrance into blind hearts, but they enter hearts full
of light. But the deceits of Satan enter crooked hearts, even as crooked
shoes fit crooked feet. Though you repeat pious expressions again and again,
if you are a fool, they affect you not at all. Nay, not [even] though you
set them down in writing, and [even] though you proclaim them vauntingly.
Wisdom averts its face from you, O man of sin, wisdom breaks away from
you and takes to flight!

On Taqlid, blind imitation or cant

“O wretch, why did you not come and say to me, ‘Such and such a disastrous
affair has occurred?’ The servant replied, “By Allah, I came again and
again, that I might acquaint you with the matter. You were always saying,
‘The ass is gone, my lad!’

Along with the others in high excitement. So I went away, thinking
you knew all about it, and were pleased at the transaction, being a wise
man.” The Sufi said, “They were all singing the same words, so I felt impelled
to sing them as well. Blind imitation of them has undone me. Cursed be
that blind imitation!”

The effect of blindly imitating unprofitable conduct is that men cast
away honour for a morsel of bread. The ecstasy of that company casts a
reflection whereby that Sufi’s heart became ecstatic like them. You need
many reflections from your associates in order to draw water from the peerless
ocean. The first reflection cast is mere blind imitation. After it has
been often repeated you may test its truth. Till it is thus verified, take
it not from your friends.  The drop, not yet become pearl, sever not
from its shell.

Evil influence of covetousness

Would you have eyes and ears of reason clear, tear off the obstructing
veil of greed! The blind imitation of that Sufi proceeded from greed. Greed
closed his mind to the pure light. Yes, ’twas greed that led astray that
Sufi, and brought him to loss of property and ruin. Greed of victuals,
greed of that ecstatic singing hindered his wits from grasping the truth.

If greed stained the face of a mirror, that mirror would be as deceitful
as we men are. [6]

If a pair of scales were greedy of riches, would they tell truly the
weight of anything? The Prophet saith, “O people, through singleness of
mind, I ask of you no recompense for my prophesying. [7]
I am a guide. God buyeth my guidance for you, God giveth you my guidance
in both worlds. True, a guide deserves his wages. Wages are due to him
for directing you aright. But what are my wages? The vision of the Friend.
Abu Bakr indeed offered me forty thousand pieces of gold, but his forty
thousand pieces were no[t] wages for me. [8]

How could I take brass beads for pearls of Aden?” I will tell you a
tale. Hearken attentively, that you may know how greed closes up the ears.
Every man subject to greed is a miser. Can eyes of hearts clouded with
greed see clearly? The illusion of rank and riches blinds his sight, like
hair dropping down before his eyes.


The Pauper and the Prisoners

A certain pauper obtained admittance to a prison and annoyed the prisoners
by eating up all their victuals, leaving them none. At last they made a
formal complaint to the Qazi, and prayed him to banish the greedy pauper
from the prison. The Qazi summoned the pauper before him, and asked him
why he did not go to his own house instead of living on the prisoners.

The pauper replied that he had no house or means of livelihood except
that supplied by the prison. Whereupon the Qazi ordered him to be carried
through the city, and proclamation to be made that he was a pauper [so]
that no one might be induced to lend him money or trade with him.

Accordingly the attendants sought for a camel whereon to carry him through
the city, and at last induced a Kurd who sold firewood to lend his camel
for the purpose. The Kurd consented from greed of reward, and the pauper,
being seated on the camel, was carried through the city from morning till
evening, [with the] proclamation being made in Persian, Arabic, and Kurdish
that he was a pauper.

When evening came the Kurd demanded payment, but the pauper refused
to give him anything, observing that if he had kept his ears open he must
have heard the proclamation. Thus the Kurd was led by greed to spend the
day in useless labour.

Satan’s office in the world

The pauper said, “Your beneficence is my sustenance. To me, as to aliens,
your prison is a paradise. If you banish me from your prison in reprobation,
I must needs die of poverty and affliction.” Just so Iblis said to Allah,
“O have compassion;

Lord! respite me till the Day of Resurrection. For in this prison of
the world I am at ease, that I may slay the children of my enemies. From
every one who has true faith for food, and as bread for his provisions
by the way, I take it away by fraud or deceit, so that they raise bitter
cries of regret. Sometimes I menace them with poverty, [2]
sometimes I blind their eyes with tresses and moles.”

In this prison the food of true faith is scarce and by the tricks of
this dog what there is is lost. In spite of prayers and fasts and endless
pains, our food is altogether devoured by him. Let us seek refuge with
Allah from Satan. Alas ! we are perishing by his insolence. The dog is
one, yet he enters a thousand forms. [3] Whatever he
enters straight becomes himself. Whatever makes you shiver, know he is
in it, the Devil is hidden beneath its outward form. When he finds no form
at hand, he enters your thoughts, to cause them to draw you into sin. From
your thoughts proceeds destruction, when from time to time evil thoughts
occur to you.

Sometimes thoughts of pleasure, sometimes of business, sometimes thoughts
of science, sometimes of house and home. Sometimes thoughts of gain and
traffic, sometimes thoughts of merchandise and wealth. Sometimes thoughts
of money and wives and children, sometimes thoughts of wisdom or of sadness.
Sometimes thoughts of household goods and fine linen.

Sometimes thoughts of carpets, sometimes of sweepers. Sometimes thoughts
of mills, gardens, and villas, sometimes of clouds and mists and jokes
and jests. Sometimes thoughts of peace and war, sometimes thoughts of honour
and disgrace.

Ah! cast out of your head these vain imaginations. Ah! sweep out of
your heart these evil suggestions. Cry, “There is no power nor strength
but in God!” To avert the evil one from the world and your own soul. It
is the true beloved who causes all outward earthly beauty to exist. Whatsoever
is perceived by sense He annuls, but He establishes that which is hidden
from the senses. The lover’s love is visible, his beloved hidden. The friend
is absent, the distraction he causes present.

Renounce these affections for outward forms. Love depends not on outward
form or face. Whatever is beloved is not a mere empty form, whether your
beloved be of the earth or of heaven.

Whatever be the form you have fallen in love with, why do you forsake
it the moment life leaves it? The form is still there; whence, then, this
disgust at it? Ah! lover, consider well what is really your beloved. If
a thing perceived by outward senses is the beloved, then all who retain
their senses must still love it. And since love increases constancy, how
can constancy fail while form abides? [4]

But the truth is [that] the sun’s beams strike the wall and the wall
only reflects that borrowed light. Why give your heart to mere stones,
O simpleton? Go! seek the source of light which shineth always! Distinguish
well true dawn from false dawn. Distinguish the colour of the wine from
that of the cup, so that instead of many eyes of caprice, one eye may be
opened through patience and constancy. Then you will behold true colours
instead of false [ones], and precious jewels in lieu of stones. But what
is a jewel? Nay, you will be an ocean of pearls. Yes, a sun that measures
the heavens!

The real workman is hidden in His workshop, go you into that workshop
and see Him face to face. Inasmuch as over that workman His work spreads
a curtain. You cannot see Him outside His work. Since His workshop is the
abode of the wise one, whoso seeks Him without is ignorant of Him. Come,
then, into His workshop, which is not-being, [5] that
you may see the Creator and creation at once.

Whoso has seen how bright is the workshop sees how obscure is the outside
of that shop. Rebellious Pharaoh set his face towards being (egoism), and
was perforce blind to that workshop. Perforce he looked for the Divine
decree to change, and hoped to turn his destiny from his door. While destiny
at the impotence of that crafty one all the while was secretly mocking.

He slew a hundred thousand guiltless babes that the ordinance and decree
of Allah might be thwarted. That the prophet Moses might not be born alive,
he committed a thousand murders in the land. He did all this, yet Moses
was born, and was protected against his wrath.

Had he [Pharaoh] but seen the eternal workshop, he would have refrained
hand and foot from these vain devices. Within his house was Moses safe
and sound, while he was killing the babes outside to no purpose. Just so
the slave of lusts who pampers his body fancies that some other man bears
him ill will, saying this one is my enemy, and this one my foe, while it
is his own body which is his enemy and foe, he is like Pharaoh, and his
body is like Moses. He runs abroad crying, “where is my foe?” While lust
is in his house, which is his body, he bites his finger in spite against

Then follows an anecdote of a man who slew his mother because she was
always misconducting herself with strangers, and who excused himself by
pleading that if he had not done so he would have been obliged to slay
strangers every day, and thus incur blood-guiltiness. Lust is likened to
this abandoned mother. When it is once slain, you are at peace with all
men. In answer to an objection that if this were so the prophets and saints,
who have subdued lust, would not have been hated and oppressed as they
were, it is pointed out that they who hated the prophets in reality hated
themselves, just as sick men quarrel with the physician or boys with the
teacher. Prophets and saints are created to test the dispositions of men,
that the good may be severed from the bad. The numerous grades of prophets,
of saints, and of holy men are ordained, as so many curtains of the light
of God, to tone down its brilliance, and make it visible to all grades
of human sight.


The King and his Two Slaves

A king purchased two slaves, one extremely handsome, and the other very
ugly. He sent the first away to the bath, and in his absence questioned
the other. He told him that the first slave had given a very bad account
of him, saying that he was a thief and a bad character, and asked if it
was true.

The second slave replied that the first was everything that was good,
his inward qualities corresponding to the beauty of his outward appearance,
and that whatever he had told the king was worthy of credit. The king replied
that beauty was only an accident, and that, according to the tradition,
accidents “endure only two moments.” That at death the animal soul is destroyed,
[and] that the text, “Whoso shall present himself with beauty shall receive
tenfold reward,” [1] does not refer to outward accidents,
but to the “substance,” the eternal soul.

The slave, in reply, urged that the accidents of good works and thoughts
will in some way bear fruit in the next world, pointing out that thought
is always the precursor of the completed work, [just] as the plan of the
architect precedes the building, and the gardener’s design, the perfect
fruit resulting from his labours. He added that the world is only the realized
thought of “universal reason” [2]

The king then sent away the slave with whom he had held this discourse,
and summoned the other, and told him that his fellow slave had given a
bad account of him, and asked what he had to say. He replied that his fellow
slave was a liar and a rascal, and the king then dismissed him, observing
that, in accordance with the tradition, “Every man is hidden under his
own tongue,” his tongue had betrayed his inner vileness. “The safety of
a man lies in holding his tongue.”

With that “brightness of lightning” [3] He kindled their
souls so that Adam acquired knowledge from that light. That, which shone
from Adam was gathered by Seth, wherefore Adam made him his viceroy when
he saw it. When Noah received the gift of that lustre, he became a soul
bearing pearls in the tempest of the flood. By that light, the soul of
Abraham was led [and] without fear he entered Nimrod’s fiery furnace. When
Ismail sought out that light, he meekly laid his head beneath his father’s
bright knife. The soul of David was warmed by its heat, iron became pliable
by the force of his weaving. [4]

When Solomon was nurtured by its fruition, the devils became the submissive
slaves of his will. When Jacob bowed his head to the Divine decree, he
recovered his sight at the scent of his son. [5] When
moonlike Joseph saw that brilliant sun,

he became so expert as he was in interpreting dreams. When the staff
drew might from the hand of Moses, it devoured the realm of Pharaoh at
a mouthful. When the soul of Jirjis [6] became privy
to its light, he sacrificed his life seven times, and regained it. When
Zakharia [7] boasted of his love for it, he ransomed
his life in the hollow of the tree. When Jonah swallowed a draught from
that cup, he found repose in the belly of the fish. When John the Baptist
became filled with its unction, he laid his head in the golden charger
in ardour for it. When Jethro became aware of this exaltation, he risked
his life to find it. Patient Job gave thanks for seven years for in his
calamities he saw signs of its approach. When Khizr and Elias boasted of
gaining it, they found the water of life and were seen no more. When Jesus,
son of Mary, found that ladder of ascent, he ascended to the height of
the fourth heaven. When Muhammad gained that blessed possession, in a moment
he cleft asunder the disk of the moon. [8]

When Abu Bakr became the exemplar of that grace, he was companion of
that Lord, and a “faithful witness.” When ‘Omar was enraptured with that
beauty, like a mind he discerned true and false. [9]
When Osman viewed those brilliant sights,

He diffused light and became “Lord of the two lights.” [10]
When Martaza (‘Ali) shined with its reflection, he became the “lion of
God” in the soul’s domain. When his two sons were illumined by this light,
they became the “pearly earrings of highest heaven;” [11]
One of them losing his life by poison, the other losing his head as he
went about his march.

When Junaid was succoured by the forces of that light, his ecstatic
states exceeded counting. Bayazid saw his way to increased fruition thereof,
and gained from God the name “Polestar of gnostics.”

What time King Mansur became victorious, [12] he
left his throne and hastened to the stake. When Karkhi of Karkh became
its keeper, he became lord of love and of the breath of Jesus. Ibrahim,
son of Adham, rode his horse to that point, and became king of kings of
equity. And that Shakik starting from that junction became a sun of wit
and acute of genius.

Fazil from a highway robber became a sage of the way, [13]
When he was regarded with esteem by the King. To Bishr Hafi the doctrine,
was announced, and he set his face towards the desert of inquiry. When
Zul Nun became distraught with care for it, Egypt (Milk) as sugar became
the house of his soul. When Sari [14] lost his head
in seeking the way thereto, his rank was exalted above the seats of the

A hundred thousand great (spiritual) kings exalted by this divine light
approach the world. Their names remain hidden through God’s jealousy; every
beggar tells not their names. [15]


The Falcon and the Owls

A certain falcon lost his way and found himself in the waste places
inhabited by owls. The owls suspected that he had come to seize their nests
and all surrounded him to make an end of him. The falcon assured them that
he had no such design as they imputed to him, that his abode was on the
wrist of the king and that he did not envy their foul habitation. The owls
replied that he was trying to deceive them, inasmuch as such a strange
bird as he could not be a favourite of the king. The falcon repeated that
he was indeed a favourite of the king and that the king would assuredly
destroy their houses if they injured him, and proceeded to give them some
good advice on the folly of trusting to outward appearances. He said, “It
is true I am not homogeneous with the king, but yet the king’s light is
reflected in me, as water becomes homogeneous with earth in plants. I am,
as it were, the dust beneath the king’s feet, and if you become like me
in this respect, you will be exalted as I am. Copy the outward form you
behold in me, and perchance you will reach the real substance of the king.”

The right use of forms

That my outward form may not mislead you, digest my sweet advice before
copying me. Many are they who have been captured by form, who aimed at
form, and found Allah. After all, soul is linked to body, though it in
nowise resembles the body. The power of the light of the eye is mated with
fat, the light of the heart is hidden in a drop of blood. Joy harbours
in the kidneys and pain in the liver, the lamp of reason in the brains
of the head, smell in the nostrils and speech in the tongue,

concupiscence [sexual desire] in the flesh and courage in the heart.

These connections are not without a why and a how, but reason is at
a loss to understand the how. Universal soul had connection with partial
soul, [1] which thence conceived a pearl and retained
it in its bosom. From that connection, like Mary, soul became pregnant
of a fair messiah. Not that messiah who walked upon earth and water, but
that messiah who is higher than space. [2]

Next, as soul became pregnant by the soul of souls, so by the former
soul did the world become pregnant. Then the world brought forth another
world, and of this last are brought forth other worlds. Should I reckon
them in my speech till the last day, I should fail to tell the total of
these resurrections. [3]


The Thirsty Man who threw Bricks into the Water

A thirsty man discovered a tank of water but could not drink of it because
it was surrounded by a high wall. He took some of the bricks off the top
of the wall and cast them over it into the water. The water cried out,
“What advantage do you gain by doing this?” He made answer, “The first
advantage is this, that I hear your voice, and the second, that the more
bricks I pull off the wall, the nearer I approach to you.”

The moral is that so long as the wall of the body intervenes, we cannot
reach the water of life. The abasement of the body brings men nearer to
union with the Deity. Destroy, therefore, the fleshly lusts which war against
the soul.

Then follows another parable to illustrate the folly of procrastination
in this important matter.


“It was not ye who shot, but God shot and those arrows were God’s not
yours”. [1] ‘Tis God’s light that illumines the senses’
light, that is the meaning of “light upon light.” [2]
The senses’ light draws us earthwards, God’s light carries us heavenwards.
As objects of sense are of base condition, God’s light is an ocean and
the senses’ light a dewdrop. But that light which is “upon this light”
is not seen, save through signs and holy discourses. Since the senses’
light is gross and dense, it lies hidden in the black pupil of the eye.
When you cannot see the senses’ light with the eye, how can you see with
the eye the light of the mind? As the senses’ light is hidden in these
gross veils, must not that light which is pure be also hidden?

Like the senses, this world is ruled by a hidden power. It confesses
its impotence before that hidden power, which sometimes exalts it and sometimes
lays it low, sometimes makes it dry and sometimes moist. The hand is hidden,
yet we see the pen writing. The horse is galloping, yet the rider is hid
from view. The arrow speeds forth, yet the bow is not seen. Souls are seen,
the soul of souls (God) is hidden. Break not the arrow, for it is the arrow
of the king. Yes, it is an arrow from the bow of wisdom. “Ye shot not when
ye shot,” was said by God. God’s action has predominance over all actions.
Break your own passion, break not that arrow. The eye of passion takes
milk to be blood. Kiss that arrow and bear it to the king, yes, though
it be stained with your own blood.

Whatsoever is seen is weak and base and impotent. What is hidden is
equally fierce and headstrong. We are the captured game. Who is the snare?
We are the balls. Where is the bat? He tears and mends. Who is this tailor?
He fans and kindles the flame. Who is this kindler? At one time He makes
the faithful one an infidel [yet] at another, He makes the atheist a devotee!

Next comes an anecdote of a dirty man who refused to bathe because he
was ashamed to go into the water, with the moral that “shame hinders religion;”
[3] and then another of Zul-Nun, a celebrated Egyptian
Sufi of the third century A.H.

Zul-Nun appeared to his ignorant friends to be mad and accordingly they
confined him in a madhouse. After a time they thought that he was not really
mad but had feigned madness for some deep purpose and [so] they went to
the madhouse to inquire into the state of his health. When they arrived
there, Zul-Nun asked them who they were, and they answered that they were
his devoted friends, who were now convinced that the story of his being
mad was a calumny. Zul-Nun jumped up and drove them away with sticks and
stones, saying that true friendship would have been manifested in sharing
his troubles, even as pure gold is tried by fire.


Luqman’s Master examines him and discovers his Acuteness

Luqman the sage, [1] who is sometimes identified
with Esop and sometimes with the nephew of the prophet Job, though “gifted
with wisdom by God,” was a slave. His master, however, discovered his worth,
and became extremely attached to him, so that he never received any delicacy
without giving Luqman a share of it. One day, having received a watermelon,
he gave Luqman the best part of it, and Luqman devoured it with such apparent
relish that his master was tempted to taste it. To his surprise he found
it very bitter, and asked Luqman why he had not told him of this. Luqman
replied that it was not for him, who lived on his master’s bounty, to complain
if he now and then received disagreeable things at his hands. Thus, though
to outward appearance a slave, Luqman showed himself to be a lord.

Love endures hardships at the hands of the Beloved.

Through love, bitter things seem sweet. Through love bits of copper
are made gold. Through love, dregs taste like pure wine. Through love,
pains are as healing balms. Through love, thorns become roses. Through
love, vinegar becomes sweet wine. Through love, the stake becomes a throne.
Through love, reverse of fortune seems good fortune. Through love, a prison
seems a rose bower. Without love, a grate full of ashes seems a garden.
Through love, burning fire is pleasing light. Through love, the Devil becomes
a houri. Through love, hard stones become soft as butter. Without love,
soft wax becomes hard iron. Through love, grief is as joy. Through love,
ghouls turn into angels. Through love, stings are as honey. Through love,
lions are harmless as mice. Through love, sickness is health. Through love,
wrath is as mercy. Through love, the dead rise to life. Through love, the
king becomes a slave.

Even when an evil befalls you, have due regard. Regard well him who
does you this ill turn. The sight which regards the ebb and flow of good
and ill opens a passage for you from misfortune to happiness. Thence you
see the one state moves you into the other, [2] one
opposite state generating its opposite in exchange. So long as you experience
not fears after joys, how can you look for pleasure after disgust?

While ye fear the doom of the angel on the left hand, men hope for the
bliss of the angel on the right. [3] May you gain two
wings! [4] A fowl with only one wing is impotent to
fly, O well intentioned one! Now either permit me to hold my peace altogether
or give me leave to explain the whole matter. And if you dislike this and
forbid that, who can tell what your desire is?

You must have the soul of Abraham in order with light to see the mansions
of Paradise in the fire. Step by step he ascended above sun and moon, and
so lagged not below, as a ring that fastens a door. Since the “friend of
God” ascended above the heavens, and said, “I love not gods that set;”
[5] So this world of the body is a breeder of misconceptions
In all who have not fled from lust.


Moses and the Shepherd

Next follows an anecdote of Bilkis, Queen of Sheba, whose reason was
enlightened by the counsels of the Hoopoe sent to her by King Solomon.
Outward sense is as opposed to true reason as Abu Jahl was to Muhammad;
and when the outward senses are replaced by the true inner reason, man
sees that the body is only foam and the heart the limitless ocean.

Afterwards comes an anecdote of a philosopher who was struck blind for
cavilling [raising trivial objections] at the verse, “What think ye? If
at early morn your waters shall have sunk away, who will then give you
clear running water?” [1]

This is succeeded by the story of Moses and the shepherd. Moses once
heard a shepherd praying as follows: “O God, show me where Thou art, that
I may become Thy servant. I will clean Thy shoes and comb Thy hair, and
sew Thy clothes, and fetch Thee milk.” When Moses heard him praying in
this senseless manner, he rebuked him, saying, “O foolish one, though your
father was a Mussalman, you have become an infidel. God is a spirit, and
needs not such gross ministrations as, in your ignorance, you suppose.”

The shepherd was abashed at his rebuke, and tore his clothes and fled
away into the desert. Then a voice from Heaven was heard, saying, “O Moses,
wherefore have you driven away My servant? Your office is to reconcile
my people with Me, not to drive them away from Me. I have given to each
race different usages and forms of praising and adoring Me. I have no need
of their praises, being exalted above all such needs. I regard not the
words that are spoken, but the heart that offers them. I do not require
fine words, but a burning heart. Men’s ways of showing devotion to Me are
various, but so long as the devotions are genuine, they are accepted.”


Religious forms indifferent

A voice came from God to Moses, “Why hast thou sent My servant away?
Thou hast come to draw men to union with Me, not to drive them far away
from Me. So far as possible, engage not in dissevering [disuniting]. ‘The
thing most repugnant to Me is divorce.’ [2] To each
person have I allotted peculiar forms. To each have I given particular
usages. What is praiseworthy in thee is blameable in him, what is poison
for thee is honey for him. What is good in him is bad in thee. What is
fair in him is repulsive in thee. I am exempt from all purity and impurity.
I need not the laziness or alacrity of My people. I created not men to
gain a profit from them, but to shower My beneficence upon them.

In the men of Hind, the usages of Hind are praiseworthy. In the men
of Sind, those of Sind. I am not purified by their praises,

’tis they who become pure and shining thereby. I regard not the outside
and the words, I regard the inside and the state of heart. I look at the
heart if it be humble, though the words may be the reverse of humble. Because
the heart is substance, and words accidents. Accidents are only a means,
substance is the final cause. How long wilt thou dwell on words and superficialities?
A burning heart is what I want, [therefore] consort with [the] burning
[heart]! Kindle in thy heart the flame of love, and burn up utterly thoughts
and fine expressions. O Moses! the lovers of fair rites are one class,
they whose hearts and souls burn with love are another.

Lovers must burn every moment, as tax and tithe are levied on a ruined
village. If they speak amiss, call them not sinners.

If a martyr be stained with blood, wash it not away. Blood is better
than water for martyrs, this fault is better than a thousand correct forms.
No need to turn to the Ka’ba when one is in it and divers have no need
of shoes. One does not take a drunken man as a guide on the way nor speak
of darns to torn garments. The sect of lovers is distinct from all others.
Lovers have a religion and a faith of their own. Though the ruby has no
stamp, what matters it?

Love is fearless in the midst of the sea of fear. Beware, if thou offerest
praises or thanksgivings and know them to be even as the babble of that
shepherd. Though thy praises be better compared with his, yet in regard
to God they are full of defects. How long wilt thou say, ‘They obscure
the truth, for it is not such as they fancy’? Thy own prayers are accepted
only through mercy, they are suffered as the prayers of an impure woman.
If her prayers are made impure by the flow of blood, thine are stained
with metaphors and similitudes. Blood is impure, yet its stain is removed
by water. But that impurity of ignorance is more lasting, seeing that without
the blessed water of God it is not banished from the man who is subject
to it.

O that thou wouldst turn thy face to thy own prayers, and become cognizant
of the meaning of thy ejaculations, and say, ‘Ah! my prayers are as defective
as my being. O requite me good for evil!’

Moses questions God as to the reason of the flourishing state
of the wicked

Moses said, “O beneficent Creator, with whom a moment’s remembrance
is as long ages. I see Thy plan distorted in this world of earth and water.
My heart, like the angel’s, feels a difficulty thereat. With what object
hast Thou framed this plan,

and sowed therein the seeds of evil? Why hast Thou kindled the fire
of violence and wrong? Why burn up mosques and them who worship therein?

Paradise is attached to requirements unpleasant to us. Hell is attached
to things flattering our lusts. The branch full of sap is the main fuel
of thy fire. ‘They that are burnt with fire are near to Kausar.’ [3]
Whoso is in prison and acquainted with troubles, that is in requital for
his gluttony and lusts. Whoso is in a palace and enjoying wealth, that
is in reward for toils and troubles. Whoso is seen enjoying uncounted gold
and silver, know that he strove patiently to acquire it. He, whose soul
is exempt from natural conditions, and who possesses the power of overriding
causes, can see without causes, like eyes that pierce night. But thou,
who art dependent on sense attend to causes, having left Jesus, thou cherishest
an ass (lust), and art perforce excluded like an ass.

The portion of Jesus is knowledge and wisdom, not so the portion of
an ass, O asinine one! Thou pitiest thine ass when it complains, so art
thou ignorant, thy ass makes thee asinine. Keep thy pity for Jesus, not
for the ass. Make not thy lust to vanquish thy reason. Leave thy natural
lusts to whine and howl. Tear thee from them, escape that snare of the


The Man who made a Pet of a Bear [1]

A kind man, seeing a serpent overcoming a bear, went to the bear’s assistance,
and delivered him from the serpent. The bear was so sensible of the kindness
the man had done him that he followed him about wherever he went and became
his faithful slave, guarding him from everything that might annoy him.
One day the man was lying asleep, and the bear, according to his custom,
was sitting by him and driving off the flies. The flies became so persistent
in their annoyances that the bear lost patience, and seizing the largest
stone he could find, dashed it at them in order to crush them utterly.
But unfortunately the flies escaped, and the stone lighted upon the sleeper’s
face and crushed it.

The moral is, “Do not make friends with fools.”

In the course of this story occur anecdotes of a blind man, of Moses
rebuking the worshippers of the calf, and of the Greek physician Galen
and a madman.


He who needs mercy finds it

Doing kindness is the game and quarry of good men, a good man seeks
in the world only pains to cure. Wherever there is a pain there goes the
remedy. Wherever there is poverty there goes relief. Seek not water, only
show you are thirsty, that water may spring up all around you. That you
may hear the words, “The Lord gives them to drink,” [2]
be athirst! Allah knows what is best for you. Seek you the water of mercy?
Be downcast, and straightway drink the wine of mercy to intoxication. Mercy
is called down by mercy to the last. Withhold not, then, mercy from any
one, O son!

If of yourself you cannot journey to the Ka’ba, represent your helplessness
to the reliever. Cries and groans are a powerful means, and the All-Merciful
is a mighty nurse. The nurse and the mother keep excusing themselves, till
their child begins to cry.

In you too has God created infant needs. When they cry out, their milk
is brought to them. God said, “Call on God;” continue crying, so that the
milk of His love may boil up. [3]

Moses and the worshipper of the calf

Moses said to one of those full of vain imaginations, “O malevolent
one, through error and heresy you entertain a hundred doubts as to my prophethood
notwithstanding these proofs and my holy character. You have seen thousands
of miracles done by me, yet they only multiply your doubts and cavils.
Through doubts and evil thoughts you are in a strait, you speak spitefully
of my prophethood. I brought the host out of the Red Sea before all men,
that ye might escape the oppression of the Egyptians. For forty years meat
and drink came from heaven, and water sprang from the rock at my prayer.
My staff became a mighty serpent in my hand, water became blood for my
ill conditioned enemy. The staff became a snake, and my hand bright as
the sun. From the reflection of that light, the sun became a star. Have
not these incidents, and hundreds more like them, banished these doubts
from you, O cold hearted one?

The calf lowed through magic, and you bowed down to it, saying, ‘Thou
art my god.’ [4] The golden calf lowed, but what did
it say that the fools should feel all this devotion to it? You have seen
many more wondrous works done by me, but where is the base man who accepts
the truth? What is it that charms vain men but vanity? What else pleases
the foolish but folly?

Because each kind is charmed by its own kind, does a cow ever seek
the lion? Did the wolf show love to Joseph, [5] Or only
fraud upon fraud with a view to devour him?

True, if it lose his wolf-like nature it becomes a friend. Even as the
dog of the cave became a son of man. [6] When good Abu
Bakr saw Muhammad, he recognized his truth, saying, ‘This one is true.’
When Abu Bakr caught the perfume of Muhammad, he said, ‘This is no false
one.’ But Abu Jahl, who was not one of the sympathizers, saw the moon split
asunder, yet believed not. If from a sympathizer, to whom it is well known,
I withhold the truth, still ’tis not hidden from him.

But he who is ignorant and without sympathy, however much I show him
the truth, he sees it not. The mirror of the heart must needs be polished
before you can distinguish fair and foul therein.”


The Gardener and the Three Friends.

A voice came from heaven to Moses, saying, “O Moses why didst thou not
visit Me when I was sick?” Moses inquired the meaning of this dark saying,
and the answer was, “When one of God’s saints is sick, God regards his
sickness as His own; and, therefore, he who desires to hold companionship
with God must not forsake the saints.” [1] This is illustrated
by a story of a gardener who saw three friends walking in his garden, and
making free with his fruit. Knowing he could not prevail against them while
they remained united, he contrived by tricks to separate them, and then
proceeded to chastise them one by one. And this caused one of them to make
the reflection that he had acted very foolishly in deserting his friends.


Bayazid and the Saint

The celebrated Sufi, Abu Yazid or Bayazid of Bastam, in Khorasan, who
lived in the third century of the flight, was once making a pilgrimage
to Mecca, visiting all the “Pillars of insight” who lived in the various
towns that lay on his route. At last he discovered the “Khizr of the age”
in the person of a venerable dervish, with whom he held the following conversation:

The sage said, “Whither are you going, O Bayazid? Where will you bring
your caravan to a halt?” Bayazid replied, “At dawn I start for the Ka’ba.”

Quoth the sage, “What provision for the way have you?” He answered,
“I have two hundred silver dirhams, see them tied up tightly in the corner
of my cloak.”

The sage said, “Circumambulate me seven times. Count this better than
circumambulating the Ka’ba; and as for the dirhams, give them to me, O
liberal one, and know you have finished your course and obtained your wish,
you have made the pilgrimage and gained the life to come. You have become
pure, and that in a moment of time. Of a truth that is God which your soul
sees in me, for God has chosen me to be His house. Though the Ka’ba is
the house of His grace and favours, yet my body too is the house of His
secret. Since He made that house He has never entered it, but none but
that living one enters this house. When you have seen me you have seen
God, and have circumambulated the veritable Ka’ba. To serve me is to worship
and praise God. Think not that God is distinct from me. Open clear eyes
and look upon me, that you may behold the light of God in a mortal. Though
beloved once called the Ka’ba ‘my house,’ but has said to me ‘O my servant’
seventy times. O Bayazid, you have found the Ka’ba, you have found a hundred
precious blessings.”

Bayazid gave heed to these deep sayings, and placed them as golden earrings
in his ears.

Then follow anecdotes of the Prophet paying a visit to one of his disciples
who lay sick, of Shaikh Bahlol, nicknamed “the madman,” who was a favourite
at the court of Harunu-‘r-Rashid, and of the people of Moses.

The sweet uses of adversity [1]

The sick man said, “Sickness has brought me this boon, that this prince
(Muhammad) has come to me this morn, so that health and strength may return
to me from the visit of this unparalleled king. O blessed pain and sickness
and fever! O welcome weariness and sleeplessness by night! Lo! God of His
bounty and favour Has sent me this pain and  sickness in my old age.
He has given me pain in the back, that I may not fail to spring up out
of my sleep at midnight, that I may not sleep all night like the cattle.
God in His mercy has sent me these pains. At my broken state, the pity
of kings has boiled up and Hell is put to silence by their threats!”

Pain is a treasure for it contains mercies. The kernel is soft when
the rind is scraped off. O brother, the place of darkness and cold is the
fountain of life and the cup of ecstasy. So also is endurance of pain and
sickness and disease. For from abasement proceeds exaltation.

The spring seasons are hidden in the autumns, and autumns are charged
with springs. Flee them not. Consort with grief and put up with sadness,
[and] seek long life in your own death! Since ’tis bad, whatever lust says
on this matter heed it not. Its business is opposition but act contrary
thereto for the prophets have laid this injunction upon the world. [2]

Though it is right to take counsel in affairs that you may have less
to regret in the upshot. The prophets have laboured much

to make the world revolve on this pivot stone. [3]
But, in order to destroy the people, lust desires to make them go astray
and lose their heads. The people say, ‘With whom shall we take counsel?’
The prophets answer, ‘With the reason of your chief.’

Again they say, ‘Suppose a child or a woman enter, who lacks reason
and clear judgement. ‘ They reply, ‘Take counsel with them, and act contrary
to what they advise.’ Know your lust to be woman, and worse than woman.
Woman is partial evil, lust universal evil. If you take counsel with your
lust, see you act contrary to what that base one advises. Even though it
enjoin prayers and fasting, it is treacherously laying a snare for you.’
You must abandon and ignore your own knowledge, and dip your hand in the
dish of abnegation of knowledge.

Whatever seems profitable, flee from it, drink poison and spill the
water of life. Contemn [scorn] whatever praises you, lend to paupers your
wealth and profits! Quit your sect and be a subject of aversion, cast away
name and fame and seek disgrace!”

God the author of good and evil

If you seek the explanation of God’s love and favour, in connection
therewith read the chapter “Brightness.” [4] And if
you say evil also proceeds from Him, yet what damage is that to His perfection?
To send that evil is one of His perfections.

I will give you an illustration, O arrogant one. The heavenly artist
paints His pictures of two sorts, fair pictures and pictures the reverse
of fair. Joseph he painted fair and made him beautiful. He also painted
ugly pictures of demons and ‘afrits.

Both sorts of pictures are of His workmanship. They proceed not from
His imperfection but His skill, that the perfection of His wisdom may be
shown and the gainsayers of His art be put to shame. Could He not paint
ugly things He would lack art,

and therefore He creates Guebers as well as Moslems. Thus, both infidelity
and faith bear witness to Him. Both alike bow down before His almighty

But know [that the]  the faithful worship Him willingly, for they
seek and aim at pleasing Him, while Guebers worship Him unwillingly, their
real aim and purpose being quite otherwise. Evil itself is turned into
good for the good. The Prophet said to that sick man, “Pray in this wise
and allay your difficulties: ‘Give us good in the house of our present
world, and give us good in the house of our next world. [5]
Make our path pleasant as a garden, and be Thou, O Holy One, our goal!’”

The faithful will say on the last day, “O King! Was not Hell on the
route all of us [who] travelled? Did not faithful as well as infidels pass
through it? Yet on our way, we perceived not the smoke of the fire. Nay,
it seemed Paradise and the mansion of the blessed.” Then the King will
answer, “That green garden, as it appeared to you on your passage through
it, was indeed Hell and the place of dread torment. Yet for you, it became
a garden green with trees. Since you have laboured to make hellish lusts
and the fire of pride that courts destruction, to make these, I say, pure
and clean and to please God, have quenched those fires, so that the fire
of lust, that erst breathed flame, has become a holy garden and a guiding
light. Since you have turned the fire of wrath to meekness and the darkness
of ignorance to shining knowledge. Since you have turned the fire of greed
into bounty, and the vile thorns of malice into a rose garden. Since you
have quenched all these fires of your own

for My sake, so that those poisons are now pure sweets. Since you have
made fiery lust as a verdant garden, and have sowed therein the seed of
fidelity, so that nightingales of prayer and praise ever warble sweetly
around this garden. Since you have responded to the call of God, and have
drawn water out of the Hell of lust. For this cause My Hell also, for your
behoof [benefit, profit], becomes a verdant garden and yields leaves and

What is the recompense of well doing, O son? It is kindness and good
treatment and rich requital. Have ye not said, “We are victims, mere nothings
before eternal Being? If we are drunkards or madmen, ’tis that cup-bearer
and that cup which make us so. We bow down our heads before His edict and
ordinance, we stake precious life to gain His favour. While the thought
of the beloved fills our hearts, all our work is to do Him service and
spend life for Him.

Wherever He kindles His destructive torch, myriads of lovers’ souls
are burnt therewith. The lovers who dwell within the sanctuary are moths
burnt with the torch of the beloved’s face.” O heart haste thither, [6]
for God will shine upon you, and seem to you a sweet garden instead of
a terror. He will infuse into your soul a new soul, so as to fill you,
like a goblet, with wine.

Take up your abode in His soul! Take up your abode in Paradise, O bright
full moon! Like the heavenly scribe, [7] He will open
your heart’s book that He may reveal mysteries unto you. Abide with your
friend, since you have gone astray. Strive to be a full moon. You are now
a fragment thereof. Wherefore this shrinking of the part from its whole?
Why this association with its foes?

Behold genus become species in due course. Behold secrets become manifest
through His light! So long as women like you swallow blandishments, how,
O wise man, can you get relief from false flatteries? These flatteries
and fair words and deceits (of lust) you take and swallow just like women.

But the reproaches and the blows of dervishes are really better for
you than the praises of sinners. Take the light blows of dervishes, not
the honey of sinners, and become, by the fortune of good, good yourself.
Because from them the robe of good fortune is gained, in the asylum of
the spirit blood becomes life.


Mo’avia and Iblis

Mo’avia, the first of the Ommayid Khalifas, was one day lying asleep
in his palace, when he was awakened by a strange man. Mo’avia asked him
who he was, and he replied that he was Iblis. Mo’avia then asked him why
he had awakened him, and Iblis replied that the hour of prayer was come,
and he feared Mo’avia would be late. Mo’avia answered, “Nay! it could never
have been your intention to direct me in the right way. How can I trust
a thief like you to guard my interests?” Iblis answered, “Remember that
I was bred up as an angel of light, and that I cannot quite abandon my
original occupation. You may travel to Rome or Cathay, but still you retain
the love of your fatherland. I still retain my love of God, who fed me
when I was young. Nay, even though I revolted from Him, that was only from
jealousy (of Adam) and jealousy proceeds from love, not from denial of
God. I played a game of chess with God at His own desire, and though I
was utterly checkmated and ruined, in my ruin I still experience God’s

Mo’avia answered, “What you say is not credible. Your words are like
the decoy calls of a fowler, which resemble the voices of the birds, and
so lure them to destruction. You have caused the destruction of hundreds
of mortals, such as the people of Noah, the tribe of ‘Ad, [1]
the family of Lot, Nimrod, Pharaoh, Abu Jahl, and so on.”

Iblis retorted, “You are mistaken if you suppose me to be the cause
of all the evil you mention. I am not God, that I should be able to make
good evil, or fair foul. Mercy and vengeance are twin divine attributes,
and they generate the good and evil seen in all earthly things. I am, therefore,
not to blame for the existence of evil, as I am only a mirror, which reflects
the good and evil existing in the objects presented to it.”

Mo’avia then prayed to God to guard him against the sophistries [misleading,
fallatious arguments] of Iblis, and again adjured Iblis to cease his arguments
and tell plainly the reason why he had awakened him. Iblis, instead of
answering, continued to justify himself, saying how hard it was that men
and women should blame him when they did anything wrong instead of blaming
their own evil lusts. Mo’avia, in reply, reproached him with concealing
the truth and ultimately brought him to confess that the true reason why
he had awakened him was this, that if he had overslept himself and so missed
the hour of prayer, he would have felt deep sorrow and have heaved many
sighs, and each of these sighs would, in the sight of God, have counted
for as many as two hundred ordinary prayers.

The value of sighs

A certain man was going into the mosque, just as another was coming
out. He inquired of him what had occurred to the meeting, that the people
were coming out of the mosque so soon. The other told him that the Prophet
had concluded the public prayers and mysteries. “Whither go you,” said
he, “O foolish one, seeing the Prophet has already given the blessing?”

The first heaved a sigh, and its smoke ascended. That sigh yielded a
perfume of his heart’s blood. The other, who came from the mosque, said
to him, “Give me that sigh and take my prayers instead.” The first said,
“I give it and take your prayers.”

The other took that sigh with a hundred thanks. He went his way with
deep humility and contrition, as a hawk who had ascended in the track of
the falcon.

That night, as he lay asleep, he heard a voice from heaven, “Thou hast
bought the water of life and healing. The worth of what thou hast chosen
and possessed equals that of all the people’s accepted prayers.”

To illustrate the treachery of wolves in sheep’s clothing, (of Satans
rebuking sin and preaching religion) an anecdote is told of a master of
a house who caught a thief, but was induced to let him escape by the stratagem
of the thief’s confederate, who cried that he had got the real thief elsewhere.

Apropos of the same theme, the poet next relates the story of “those
who built a mosque for mischief,” as recorded in the Koran. [2]
The tribe of Bani Ganim built a mosque, and invited the Prophet to dedicate
it. The Prophet, however, discovered that their real motive was jealousy
of the tribe of Bani Amru Ibn Auf and of the mosque at Kuba, near Medina,
and a treacherous understanding with the Syrian monk Abu Amir, and therefore
he refused their request and ordered the mosque to be razed to the ground.

Wisdom the believer’s lost camel

My people adopt My law without obeying it, they take that coin without
assaying it. The Koran’s wisdom is like the believer’s lost camel,’ [3]
everyone is certain his camel is lost. You have lost your camel and seek
it diligently, yet how will you find it if you know not your own? What
was lost? Was it a female camel that you lost? It escaped from your hand
and you are in a maze. The caravan is come to be loaded, [and] your camel
is vanished from the midst of it. You run here and there, your mouth parched
with heat.

The caravan moves on, and night approaches. Your goods lie on the ground
in a dangerous road [and] you hurry after your camel in all directions.
You cry “O Moslems, who has seen a camel, which escaped from its stable
this morning? To him who shall give me news of my camel I will give a reward
of so many dirhams.”

You go on seeking news of your camel from everyone and every lewd fellow
flatters you with a fresh rumour, saying, “I saw a camel, it went this
way, ‘Twas red and it went towards this pasture.” Another says, “Its ear
was cropped.” Another says, “Its cloth was embroidered.” Another that it
had only one eye. Another that it had lost its hair from mange. To gain
the reward every base fellow mentions a hundred [re]marks without any foundation.

All false doctrines contain an element of truth. Just so everyone, in
matters of doctrine, gives a different description of the hidden subject.
A philosopher expounds it in one way and a critic at once refutes his propositions.
A third censures both of them. A fourth spends his life in traducing [to
disgrace by making false statements] the others. Everyone mentions indications
of this road in order to create an impression that he has gone it. This
truth and that truth cannot be all true and yet all of them are not entirely
astray in error. Because error occurs not without some truth, fools buy
base coins from their likeness to real coins. If there were no genuine
coins current in the world, how could coiners succeed in passing false

If there were no truth, how could falsehood exist? Falsehood derives
its plausibility from truth. ‘Tis the desire of right that makes men buy
wrong. Let poison be mixed with sugar and they eat it at once. If wheat
were not valued as sweet and good for food, the cheat who shows wheat and
sells barley would make no profit! Say not, then, that all these creeds
are false.

The false ones ensnare hearts by the scent of truth. Say not that they
are all erroneous fancies. There is no fancy in the universe without some

Truth is the “night of power ” [4] hidden amongst
other nights in order to try the spirit of every night.  Not every
night is that of power, O youth, nor yet is every night quite void of power.
In the crowd of rag-wearers there is but one faqir. [5]

Search well and find out that true one. Tell the wary and discerning
believer to distinguish the king from the beggar. If there were no bad
goods in the world, every fool might be a skilful merchant. For then the
hard art of judging goods would be easy. If there were no faults, one man
could judge as well as another.

Again, if all were faulty, [then] skill would be profitless. If all
wood were common, [then] there would be no aloes. He who accepts everything
as true is a fool, but he who says all is false is a knave.


The Four Hindustanis who censured one another.

Four Hindustanis went to the mosque to say their prayers. Each one duly
pronounced the Takbir, and was saying his prayers with great devotion,
when the Mu’azzin happened to come in. One of them immediately called out,
“O Mu’azzin, have you yet called to prayer? It is time to do so.” Then
the second said to the speaker, “Ah! you have spoken words unconnected
with worship, and therefore, according to the Hadis, you have spoiled your
prayers.” [1] Thereupon the third scolded the last
speaker, saying, “O simpleton, why do you rebuke him? Rather rebuke yourself.”
Last of all, the fourth said, “God be praised that I have not fallen into
the same ditch as my three companions.”

The moral is, not to find fault with others, but rather, according to
the proverb, [2] to be admonished by their bad example.

Apropos of this proverb, a story is told of two prisoners captured by
the tribe of Ghuz. The Ghuzians were about to put one of them to death,
to frighten the other, and make him confess where the treasure was concealed,
when the doomed man discovered their object, and said, “O noble sirs, kill
my companion, and frighten me instead.”


The Old Man and the Physician.

An old man complained to his physician that he suffered from headache.
The physician replied, “That is caused by old age.” The old man next complained
of a defect in his sight, and the physician again told him that his malady
was due to old age. The old man went on to say that he suffered from pain
in the back, from dyspepsia, from shortness of breath, from nervous debility,
from inability to walk, and so on. And the physician replied that each
of these ailments was likewise caused by old age. The old man, losing patience,
said, “O fool, know you not that God has ordained a remedy for every malady?”
The physician answered, “This passion and choler are also symptoms of old
age. Since all your members are weak, you have lost the power of self-control,
and fly into a passion at every word.”

Bad principles always produce bad acts

Fools laud and magnify the mosque, while they strive to oppress holy
men of heart. But the former is mere form, the latter spirit and truth.
The only true mosque is that in the hearts of saints. The mosque that is
built in the hearts of the saints is the place of worship of all, for God
dwells there.

So long as the hearts of the saints are not afflicted, God never destroys
the nation. Our forefathers lifted their hands against the prophets. Seeing
their bodies, they took them for ordinary men. In you also abide the morals
of those men of old. How can you avoid fearing that you will act like them?
The morals of those unthankful ones dwell in you. Your urn will not always
return unbroken from the well, seeing that all these bad symptoms are seen
in you, and that you are one with those men, how can you escape?


The Arab Carrier and the Scholar

An Arab loaded his camel with two sacks, filling one with wheat and
the second with sand, in order to balance the first. As he was proceeding
on his way he met a certain tradition-monger, who questioned him about
the contents of his sacks. On learning that one contained nothing but sand,
he pointed out that the object might be attained much better by putting
half the wheat in one sack and half in the other.

On hearing this, the Arab was so struck by his sagacity that he conceived
a great respect for him, and mounted him on his camel. Then he said, “As
you possess such great wisdom, I presume that you are a king or a Vizier,
or at least a very rich and powerful noble.” The theologian, replied, “On
the contrary. I am a very poor man; all the riches my learning has brought
me are weariness and headaches, and I know not where to look for a loaf
of bread.” The Arab said, “In that case get, off my camel and go your way
and suffer me to go mine, for I see your learning brings ill luck.”

The moral of the story is the worthlessness of mere human knowledge,
and its inferiority to the divine knowledge proceeding from inspiration.
This thesis is further illustrated by an account of the mighty works which
were done by the saint Ibrahim bin Adham, through the divine knowledge
that God had given him.

Ibrahim was originally prince of Balkh, but renounced his kingdom and
became a saint. One day he was sitting by the shore mending his cloak when
one of his former subjects passed by and marvelled to see him engaged in
such a mean occupation. The saint at once, by inspired knowledge, read
his thoughts and thus corrected his false impressions. He took the needle
with which he was mending, his cloak and cast it into the sea. Then with
a loud voice he cried out, “O needle rise again from the midst of the sea
and come back again into my hands.” Without a moment’s delay thousands
of fishes rose to the surface of the sea, each bearing in its mouth a golden
needle, and cried out, “O Shaikh, take these needles of God!”

Ibrahim then turned to the noble, saying, “Is not the kingdom of the
heart better than the contemptible earthly kingdom I formerly possessed?
What you have just seen is a very trifling sign of my spiritual power as
it were, a mere leaf plucked to show the beauty of a garden. You have now
caught the scent of this garden, and it ought to attract your soul to the
garden itself, for you must know that scents have great influence, e.g.,
the scent of Joseph’s coat, [1] which restored Jacob’s
sight, and the scents which were loved by the Prophet.” [2]


The Man who boasted that God did not punish him for his sins and Jethro’s
answer to him.

That person said in the time of Shu’aib (Jethro), “God has seen many
faults done by me. Yes, how many sins and faults of mine has He seen. Nevertheless
of His mercy He punishes me not.” God Almighty spake in the ear of Shu’aib,
addressing him with an inner voice in answer thereto, “Why hast thou said
I have sinned so much, and God of His mercy has not punished my sins?”
Thou sayest the very reverse of the truth, O fool! Wandering from the way
and lost in the desert! How many times do I smite thee, and thou knowest
not? Thou art bound in My chains from head to foot. On thy heart is rust
on rust collected, so thou art blind to mysteries. Thy rust, layer on layer,
O black kettle! Makes the aspect of thy inner parts foul. If that smoke
touched a new kettle, it would show the smut, were it only as a grain of

For everything is made manifest by its opposite, in contrast with its
whiteness that black shows foul. But when the kettle is black, then afterwards
who can see on it the impression of the smoke? If the blacksmith be a negro,
his face agrees in colour with the smoke. But if a man of Rum does blacksmith’s
work, his face becomes grimed by the smoke fumes. Then he quickly perceives
the impression of his fault, so that he wails and cries ‘O Allah!’

When he is stubborn and follows his evil practices, he casts dust in
the eyes of his discernment. He recks not of repentance, and, moreover,
that sin becomes dear to his heart so that he becomes without faith. Old
shame for sin and calling on God quit him, rust five layers deep settles
on his mirror. Rust spots begin to gnaw his iron. The colour in his jewel
grows less and less. When you write on white paper, what is written is
read at a glance. But when you write on the face of a written page, it
is not plain. Reading it is deceptive for that black is written on the
top of other black. Both the writings are illegible and senseless. Or if,
in the third place, you write on the page and then blacken it like an infidel’s
soul, then what remedy but the aid of the remedier? Despair is copper and
sight its elixir. Lay your despair before Him, that you may escape from
pain without medicine.”

When Shu’aib spoke these aphorisms to him, from that breath of the soul
roses bloomed in his heart. His soul heard the revelations of Heaven. He
said, “If He has punished me, where is the sign of it?” Shu’aib said, “O
Lord, he repels my arguments, he seeks for a sign of that punishment.”
The veiler of sins replied, “I will tell him no secrets, save only one,
in order to try him. One sign that I punish him is this, that he observes
obedience and fasting and prayer, and devotions and almsgiving, and so
on, yet never feels the least expansion of soul. He performs the devotions
and acts enjoined by law,

yet derives not an atom of relish from them. Outward devotion is sweet
to him, spirit is not sweet. Nuts in plenty, but no kernel in any of them.
Relish is needed for devotions to bear fruit, kernels are needed that seeds
may yield trees. How can seeds without kernels become trees? Form without
soul (life) is only a dream.”


The Gluttonous Sufi

In a certain convent there lived a Sufi whose conduct gave just offence
to the brethren. They brought him before their Shaikh and accused him thus,
“This Sufi has three very bad qualities. He babbles exceedingly like a
bell, at his meals he eats more than twenty men, and when he sleeps he
is as one of the seven sleepers.” The Shaikh then admonished him, insisting
on the obligation of keeping to the golden mean and reminding him that
even the Prophet Moses [1] was once rebuked by Khizr
for speaking to excess. But the delinquent excused himself on the grounds
that the mean is relative, what is excess in one man being moderation in
another, that he who is led by the spirit is no longer subject to the outward
law, and that, the “inner voice,” which rules such a one’s conduct, is
its own evidence. The mean is relative.

He said, “Though the path of the mean is wisdom, yet is this same mean
also relative. The water which is insufficient for a camel is like an ocean
to a mouse. Whoso has four loaves as his daily allowance, whether he eat
two or three, he observes the mean. But if he eat all four, he transgresses
the mean — a very slave to greed, and voracious as a duck.

Whoso has an appetite for ten loaves know, though he eat six, he observes
the mean. If I have an appetite for fifty loaves,

while you can manage only six, we are not on a par. You are wearied
with ten prostrations in prayer, whilst I can endure five hundred. Such
a one goes barefoot to the Ka’ba, whilst another faints with going to the

The ecstatic state which exalts the subject of it above law.

“At times my state resembles a dream, my dreaming seems to them infidelity.
Know my eyes sleep, but my heart is awake. My body, though torpid, is instinct
with energy. The Prophet said, ‘Mine eyes sleep, but my heart is awake
with the Lord of mankind.’ Your eyes are awake and your heart fast asleep,

my eyes are closed, and my heart at the ‘open door.’

My heart has other five senses of its own. These senses of my heart
view the two worlds. Let not a weakling like you censure me. What seems
night to you is broad day to me. What seems a prison to you is a garden
to me. Busy occupation is rest to me. Your feet are in the mire, to me,
mire is rose. What to you is funeral wailing is [the] marriage drum to
me. While I seem on earth, abiding with you in the house, I ascend like
Saturn to the Seventh Heaven. ‘

Tis not I who companion with you, ’tis my shadow. My exaltation transcends
your thoughts, because I have transcended thought. Yes, I have sped beyond
reach of thought. I am lord of thought, not overlorded by thought, as the
builder is lord of the building. All creatures are enslaved to thought.
For this cause are they sad at heart and sorrowful. I send myself on an
embassy to thought, and, at will, spring back again from thought.

I am as the bird of heaven and thought as the fly. How can the fly lend
a helping hand to me? Whoso has in him a spark of the light of omnipotence,
however much he eats, say ‘ Eat on;’ ’tis lawful to him.” To the spiritual
man the “inner voice” is its

own evidence, and needs no other proof. “If you are a true lover of
my soul, this truth-fraught saying of mine is no vain pretence, ‘Though
I talk half the night, I am superior to you.’ And again, ‘Fear not the
night. Here am I, your kinsman.’ These two assertions of mine will both
seem true to you the moment you recognize the voice of your kinsman. Superiority
and kinsmanship are both mere assertions, yet both are recognized for truth
by men of clear wit.

The nearness of the voice proves to such a one that the voice proceeds
from a friend who is near. The sweetness of the kinsman’s voice, too, O
beloved, proves the veracity of that kinsman. But the uninspired fool,
who from ignorance cannot tell the voice of a stranger from a friend’s,
to him the friend’s saying seems a vain pretension, his ignorance is the
material cause of his disbelief.

To the wise, whose hearts are enlightened, the mere sound of that voice
proves its truth.” “When you say to a thirsty man, ‘Come quickly, this
is water in the cup, take and drink it.’ Does the thirsty man say, ‘This
is a vain pretension. Go, remove yourself from me, O vain pretender, or
proceed to give proofs and evidence that this is generic water, and concrete
water thereof’? Or when a mother cries to her sucking babe, ‘come, O son,
I am thy mother,’ Does the babe answer, ‘O mother, show a proof that I
shall find comfort from taking thy milk’? In the hearts of every sect that
has a taste of the truth, the sight and the voice of prophets work miracles.

When the prophets raise their cry to the outward ear, the souls of each
sect bow in devotion within. Because never in this world hath the soul’s
ear heard from any man the like of that cry. That poor man in that strange
sweet voice recognizes the voice of God, ‘Verily I am nigh.’” [2]


The Tree of Life

The preceding story is followed by a short anecdote of the infants of
the virgin Mary and [also] the mother of John the Baptist leaping in their
mothers’ wombs. And in reply to matter of fact cavillers and questioners
of this anecdote,  the poet says we must look at its spirit and essential
basis rather than its outward form.

This introduces the story of the tree of life. A certain wise man related
that in Hindustan there was a tree of such wonderful virtue that whosoever
ate of its fruit lived forever. Hearing this, a king deputed one of his
courtiers to go in quest of it. The courtier accordingly proceeded to Hindustan,
and travelled all over that country, inquiring of everyone he met where
this tree was to be found. Some of these persons professed their entire
ignorance, others joked him, and others gave him false information; and,
finally, he had to return to his country with his mission unaccomplished.
He then, as a last resource, betook himself to the sage who had first spoken
of the tree, and begged for further information about it, and the sage
replied to him as follows:

The Shaikh laughed, and said to him, “O friend, this is the tree of
knowledge, O knowing one. Very high, very fine, very expansive, the very
water of life from the circumfluent ocean. Thou hast run after form, O
ill-informed one, wherefore thou lackest the fruit of the tree of substance.
Sometimes it is named tree, sometimes sun, sometimes lake, and sometimes

‘Tis one, though it has thousands of manifestations. Its least manifestation
is eternal life! Though ’tis one, it has a thousand manifestations, the
names that fit that one are countless.

That one is to thy personality a father, in regard to another person
he may be a son. In relation to another He may be wrath and vengeance.
In relation to another, mercy and goodness. He has thousands of names,
yet is one. Answering to all of His descriptions, yet indescribable. Every
one who seeks names, if he is a man of credulity, like thee, remains hopeless
and frustrated of his aim. Why cleavest thou to this mere name of tree,
so that thou art utterly balked and disappointed?

Pass over names and look to qualities, so that qualities may lead thee
to essence! The differences of sects arise from His names. When they pierce
to His essence they find His peace!”

This story is followed by another anecdote illustrative of the same
thesis that attending merely to names and outward forms, rather than to
the spirit and essence of religion, leads men into error and delusion.

Four persons, a Persian, an Arab, a Turk, and a Greek, were travelling
together, and received a present of a Durham. The Persian said he would
buy “angur” with it, the Arab said he would buy “inab,” while the Turk
and the Greek were for buying “uzum” and “astaphil” (staphyle), respectively.
Now all these words mean one and the same thing, viz. “grapes.” But, owing
to their ignorance of each other’s languages, they fancied they each wanted
to buy something different, and accordingly a violent quarrel arose between
them. At last a wise man who knew all their languages came up and explained
to them that they were all wishing for one and the same thing.


The Young Ducks who were brought up under a Hen

Although a domestic fowl may have taken thee, who art a duckling, under
her wing and nurtured thee, thy mother was a duck of that ocean. Thy nurse
was earthy, and her wing dry land. The longing for the ocean which fills
thy heart, that natural longing of thy soul comes from thy mother. Thy
longing for dry land comes to thee from thy nurse. Quit thy nurse, for
she will lead thee astray. Leave thy nurse on the dry land and push on.
Enter the ocean of real being, like the ducks! Though thy nurse may frighten
thee away from water. Do thou fear not, but haste on into the ocean!

Thou art a duck, and flourishest on land and water, and dost not, like
a domestic fowl, dig up the house. Thou art a king of “the sons of Adam
honoured by God,” [l] and settest foot alike on sea
and land. For impress on thy mind, “We have carried them by sea,” before
the words, “We have carried them by land.” The angels go not on dry land,
and the animals know nothing of the sea. Thou in body art an animal, in
thy soul an angel. Hence thou goest both upon earth and on Heaven.” Hence
to outward view “He is a man like you,” [2] while to
his sharp-seeing heart “it hath been revealed.”

His earthy form has fallen on earth, his spirit revolving above highest
heaven. O boy, we are all of us waterfowl, the sea knows full well our
language. Solomon [3] is, as it were, that sea, and
we as the birds. In Solomon we hold our course to eternity. Along with
Solomon plunge into the ocean. [4] Then, like David,
the water will make us coats of mail. That Solomon is present to every
one, but negligence closes their eyes and bewitches them. Hence, through
ignorance, sloth, and folly, though he stands hard by us, we are shut off
from him.

The noise of thunder makes the head of the thirsty ache. When he knows
not that it unlocks the blessed showers, his eyes are fixed on the running
stream, unwitting of the sweetness of the rain from heaven. He urges the
steed of his desire towards the caused, and perforce remains shut off from
the causer. Whoso beholds the causer face to face, how can he set his heart
on things caused on earth?


1. The delay was caused by the grief of Husam
for the death of his wife.


1. Koran xciii: “By the daylight and by the night
thy, Lord hath not forsaken thee nor been displeased.”

2. Koran vi. 76: “And when the night overshadowed
Abraham, he beheld a star, and he said, ‘This is my Lord;’ but when it
set he said, ‘I love not Gods which set.’”

3. Mansur Hallaj, a celebrated Sufi who was put to
death at Baghdad in 309 A.H. for using these words.

4. i.e., unity is made to appear as plurality (see
Gulshan i Raz, I. 710).

5. See Gulshan i Raz, I. 104.

6. The Turkish commentator translates thus. The Lucknow
copy reads Ba sati for Ma sti.

7. Koran xi 53.

8. Abu Bakr made over all his goods to the Prophet
in aid of the expedition to Syria.


1. Koran vii. 13.

2. Koran ii. 279.

3. cf. Gulshan i Raz, p. 86.

4. This couplet exercises both the Turkish and the
Lucknow commentators.

5. i.e., annihilation of self and of all phenomenal
being, regarding self as naught in the presence of the Deity.


1. Koran vi. 161.

2. i.e., the Logos as Demiurge.

3. Koran xxiv. 43. The prophetic inspiration is likened
to a light handed on from one to another.

4. Koran xxi. 80.

5. Koran lxxvii. 96.

6. Jirjis or St. George is supposed by Muhammadans
to be the same person as Khizr or Elias.

7. Zakhariah the prophet is said to have taken refuge
from his persecutors in the hollow of a tree.

8. Koran liv. 1.

9. Omar was called “The Discerner.”

10. He bore this name because he had two daughters
of Muhammad as his wives.

11. A tradition gives this title to Hasan and Hussain.

12. Mansur Hallaj, the celebrated Sufi impaled at
Baghdad. Shah or King was a title often assumed by dervishes.

13. The “way” means the Sufi doctrines.

14. All these saints lived in the second and third
centuries of the Flight.

15. In the introduction to the Nafahatu-‘l Uns,
Jami says there are always 4000 saints on the earth who are not even known
to one another.


1. This is a figurative account of the emanations
of Absolute Being, whereby the world of phenomena is constituted (see Gulshan
i Raz, p. 21, note, and p. 66).

2. i.e., the spirit of the Prophet Muhammad, whom
the Sufis identify with the Primal Soul.

3. Continually is creation born again in a new creation”
(Gulshan i Raz, p. 66). By constant effluxes from Absolute Being the world
of phenomena is every moment renewed.


1. Koran viii. 17, meaning, “God is the Fa’il i Hakiki,
or Only Real Agent.”

2. Koran xxiv. 35.

3. Freytag, Arabum Proverbia, vol. ii. pp. 379 and
418, gives two proverbs – one, “Shame is a part of religion;” and the other,
“Shame hinders getting a livelihood.”


1. See Koran xxxi. Another anecdote of his wit occurs
in Book I.

2. The doctrine of Heraclius, that opposite states
generate one another, is discussed by Jelaludin in a passage quoted in
Lumsden’s Grammar, ii. 323, and is mentioned in the Phado and the Nicomachean

3. An anacoluthon (see Koran i. 16).

4. The two wings are hope and fear, both of which
are needed to guide men’s religious flight (see Book III. on “Probability
the guide of life”).

5. Koran vi. 77.


1. Koran lxvii. 30.

2. A tradition.

3. A saying of the Prophet.


1. Anwari Suhaili, i. 27.

2. Koran lxxvi. 21.

3. Koran xvii. 110.

4. See Koran xx. 90.

5. Koran xii. 17.

6. Koran xviii. 17.


1. Cp. Matthew xxv. 40.


1. Alluding to the Hadis: “Heaven and earth contain
me not, but the heart of my faithful servant contains me.”

2. Freytag quotes a saying of ‘Omar, “A fool may
indicate the right course” (Arabum Proverbia, i. p. 566).

3. The law defining the right course.

4. Koran xciii. : “By the noonday brightness, and
by the night when it darkeneth, thy Lord hath not forsaken thee nor been

5. “O Lord, give us good in this world and good
in the next, and save us from the torment of the fire.” (Koran ii. 197).

6. i.e., to annihilation of self in God, as a moth
in the flame.

7. Atarid or Mercury.


1. See Koran xi. 63.

2. Koran ix. 108.

3. This is a proverb ascribed to Ali. It means,
people are always losing wisdom and seeking it like a lost camel (Freytag,
Arabum Proverbia, i. p. 385).

4. The night on which the Koran was revealed.

5. So in the Phaedo, “Many are the wand bearers,
but few the Mystics.”


1. Mishkat al Masabih, by Matthews, i. 205.

2. Freytag, Arabum Proverbia, i. 628.


1. Koran xii. 93.

2. There is a Hadis: “The Prophet loved perfumes
and fair women and brightness of eyes in prayer.”


1. Koran xviii. 77.

2. “And when my servants ask thee concerning me
then will I be nigh unto them. I will answer the cry of him that crieth,
when he crieth unto me.” (Koran ii. l82).


1. Koran xvi. 72: “And now have we honoured the
sons of Adam, by sea and by land have we carried them.”

2. Koran xviii. 110: “Say, in sooth I am only a
man like you. It hath been revealed unto me that your God is one only God.”

3. Koran xxvii. 16: “Solomon said, O men, we have
been taught the speech of birds.”

4. Koran xxvii. 44 and xxi. 80.

Husam al-Din Chelebi (spelled Husamu-‘d-Din throughout this
Mathnawi) was a deep spiritual friend of Maulana Rumi (perhaps a disciple).
He suggested the idea that Maulana Rumi compose the volumes of the Mathnawi,
and Maulana Rumi accepted. Husam al-Din penned the Mathnawi while Maulana
Rumi dictated. At the completion of each book, Husam al-Din would read
the manuscript to Maulana Rumi so that he could correct what had been written.


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