Spiritual Courtesy and Respect

Mathnawi I: 78-92

(About) requesting from God,1 the Protecting Lord of Grace,
the favor of observing (spiritual) courtesy and respect in every
situation, and explaining the harmfulness and losses (which
result) from rudeness

78 We should seek from God the favor of [behaving with]
(spiritual) courtesy and respect,2 (since) the rude person is
excluded from the grace of the Lord.

The rude person doesn't keep himself in (a state of) affliction
alone, but sets fire to all the regions (of the world).

80 A table3 was arriving from Heaven without (any effort of)
buying and selling and talking and listening.4

(But then), in the midst of the people of Moses, some persons
spoke rudely: "Where (are) garlic and lentils?"5

The table and bread from Heaven was ended [immediately], (and)
there remained for us6 the painful toil of farming with shovel [for
planting] and scythe [for reaping].

Again, when Jesus interceded (with prayers), God sent a table7
with an abundance (of food) on trays.

(Yet) again, (those) insolent ones ones abandoned courtesy and
respect, (and) took the food [home with them] like beggars.8

85 Jesus asked them earnestly [to be respectful], saying, "(But) this
(food) is enduring and won't be decreased from the earth."

Acting suspiciously and bringing greed to the table of (Divine)
Grandeur is rejection and ingratitude.9

(And so), because of those people, with faces like beggars and
blinded by greed, that gate of (Divine) Mercy became shut for

After the refusal of (paying) charity (for the poor),10 the (rain)
clouds do not come. And when unlawful sex11 occurs, the plague
(spreads) to (all) directions.

Whatever gloom and grief comes to you is because of reckless
impudence and also insolence.

90 Whoever acts with bold impudence in the path of the Beloved is
a highway robber of the (true) men [of the spiritual Way] and is
not a man.

By means of (spiritual) courtesy and respect, the Heavens became
full of light, and by means of (such) respect the angels became
innocent and pure.

92 (But) the sun became eclipsed because of insolence. (And)
because of rashness, an (angel such as) Azazeel12 was turned away
from the gate [to the angelic realm].

--From "The Mathnawî-yé Ma`nawî" [Rhymed Couplets of
Deep Spiritual Meaning] of Jalaluddin Rumi.
Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard (with
gratitude for R. A. Nicholson's 1926 British translation)
Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (yahoogroups.com), 1/29/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (Heading (About) requesting from God: this heading was
apparently forgotten, but was added to the margin of the earliest
extant manuscript of the Mathnawi (the "Konya manuscript"). Just
prior to this section was the beginning of Rumi's first story about
the king and the handmaiden. After the king fell in love with her
and bought her, she immediately became gravely ill. When his
physicians were unable to cure her, he went into the mosque
[masjid] to pray and "the place of prostration [sajda-gâh] became
filled with the king's tears" (I:56). He fell asleep and dreamed
about a wise man who would be sent by God to help him. When
the wise man was seen to be approaching the next day, instead of
sending his important officials, the king himself went out to greet
him, and said: "You were my (true) beloved, not that (maiden)....
Oh you are to me (like) Muhammad, (and) I am like (his
companion) `Umar. I will prepare myself for the sake of serving
you" (I:76-77) Following this example of exceptional courtesy and
respect, Rumi explains the importance of spiritual courtesy.

2. (78) (spiritual) courtesy and respect: "adab may be defined as the
character, feelings, and manners which are the fruit of spiritual
culture. The reverence shown by the King to the Sage and by
`Umar to the Prophet (v. 77) naturally suggests this brief homily on
a subject so important for novices in Súfism." (Nicholson,

3. (80) A table: this word occurs in the Qur'an to describe a "table" of
food from Heaven which the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him)
prayed for and received (5:114). But here the word refers to the
manna and quails sent to the people of Moses in the desert: "And
We shaded them with clouds, and We sent down to them manna
and quails, (saying), 'Eat from among the good things that We have
provided to you'.. But they did harm to themselves" [by
complaining]. (Qur'an 7:160; 2:57) It seems that manna is a sweet
gum secreted from tamarisk bushes in the Sinai desert (Yûsuf `Alî,
"The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation, and Commentary," p. 31).

4. (80 talking and listening: means bargaining for a good price.
Nicholson later corrected his translation, based on the earliest
manuscript of the Mathnawi to: "without buying and selling and
without speaking and hearing" (from, "without headache (trouble)
and without selling and buying."

5. (81) garlic and onions: the people of Moses complained, "O
Moses, we cannot endure one kind of food (only), so pray to your
Lord for us, to bring forth for our sake of what the earth grows: its
herbs, its cucumbers, its garlic, its lentils, and its onions." (2:61)

6. (82) there remained for us: Nicholson later corrected his
translation, to: "there remained for us (their successors) the toil of
sowing, etc." (from, "there remained (for all of them) the toil of
sowing and (labouring with) mattock and scythe." (Commentary)

7. (83) God sent a table: a "table" of food from Heaven which the
Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) prayed for and received: "When
the disciples said, 'O Jesus son of Mary, can your Lord send down
to us a table from Heaven?' He said, 'Be in awe of God [attaqû
'llâh] if you are (truly) believers'" (5:114). The disciples said that
they only wanted to eat, as well as to know for certain, by seeing a
miracle, that Jesus spoke the truth. Jesus prayed for food from
heaven as a sign (of Divine support) and for sustenance from God
who is the Best of Providers. God agreed to send it down, but
warned of punishment for any who denied faith after this (miracle--
5:116-118). In Persian, the word translated as "table" can mean a
tray of food, but generally refers to the Middle Eastern custom of
eating on the floor or ground with the food placed upon a cloth, or
occasionally upon leather.

8. (84) like beggars: refers to the custom according to which guests
were allowed to take food home with them after being invited to a
meal. "It was not unusual (though considered unmannerly) for
greedy guests to collect and carry away the food left over from a
feast. Such a person was called zallah-band." (Nicholson,

9. (86) rejection and ingratitude [kufr]: a Qur'anic term which also
means unbelief and denial (toward the truth of the Oneness of God
and the revelation sent to the prophets).

10. (88) charity (for the poor): one of the "five pillars" of Islam-- the
requirement for Muslims to donate once a year to the poor
approximately two and half percent of one's available wealth, if
one is not poor. This verse refers to the punishment believed to
follow widespread refusal or avoidance, not just a few cases.

11. (88) unlawful sex [zinâ]: this word means any kind of sexual
relations outside marriage-- by the married (adultery) or by the
unmarried (fornication), believed, when prevalent, to be the cause
of plague. "The commentators quote from Traditions: wa-lá
mana`ú l-zakáta illá hubisa `anhumu 'l-qatr [= "And there is no
refusal of the (required) charity except that the rain is seized (and
taken away) from them"] and idhá ra'aytumú 'l-wabá a qad fashá
fa-`lamú anna 'l-zinâ qad fashá" [= "When you see that the plague
has definitely spread, know that shameful sexual conduct has
definitely spread"]. (Nicholson, Commentary)

12. (92) Azazeel: the name of Satan before his fall. His insolence was
to refuse to bow in obeisance to Adam when all the angels were
commanded to do so. Satan refused, with the arrogant claim that he
was superior to Adam since he was made from "fire" but Adam
was made from (mere) clay (Qur'an 7:11-12). Satan also arrogantly
blamed God for his own fall: "You caused me to err" (7:16),
whereas Adam and Eve showed humble respect to God by saying,
"O Lord! We have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive
us and show mercy to us, we will surely be among the lost!" (7:23)


az khodâwand-é waliyyu 'l-tawfîq dar khwâstan-é
tawfîqri`âyat-é adab dar hama Hâl-hâ-wo bayân
kardan-é wakhâmat-é Zarar-hây-ê bê-adabî

78 az khodâ jôy-êm tawfîq-é adab
bê-adab maHrôm gasht az luTf-é rab

bê-adab tan-hâ na khwad-râ dâsht bad
bal-ke âtesh dar hama âfâq zad

80 mâyida az âsmân dar mê-rasîd
bê-shirà-wo bay`-o bê-goft-o shenîd

dar meyân-é qawm-é môsà chand kas
bê-adab goft-and kô sêr-o `adas?

munqati` shod khwân-o nân az âsmân
mând ranj-é zar`-o bêl-o dâs-emân

bâz `îsà chôn shifâ`at kard, Haq
khwân ferestân-o ghanîmat bar Tabaq

bâz gostâkh-ân adab be-g'Zâsht-and
chôn gadâ-yân zalla-hâ bar dâsht-and

85 lâba karda `îsà êshân-râ ke în
dâyim-ast-o kam na-gard-ad az zamîn

bad-gomânî kardan-o HirS-âwarî
kufr bâsh-ad pêsh-é khwân-é mehtarî

z-ân gadâ-rôy-ân-é nâ-dîda ze-âz
ân dar-é raHmat bar-êshân shod farâz

abr bar n-ây-ad pay-é man`-é zakât
w-az zinâ oft-ad wabâ andar jihât

har-che bar tô ây-ad az Zulmât-o gham
ân ze-bê-bâkî-wo gostâkhî-st ham

90 har ke bê-bâkî kon-ad dar râh-é dôst
rah-zan-é mard-ân shod-o nâ-mard ô-st

az adab por-nôr gasht-ast în falak
w-az adab ma`Sôm-o pâk âmad malak

92 bod ze-gostâkhî kasôf-é âftâb
shod `âzâzîlê ze-jur'at radd-é bâb

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)