Only Love Can Understand the Secrets of God

Mathnawi I: 109-116

109 Love sickness1 is clearly shown by the heart's misery. There
isn't any sickness like the sickness of the heart.

110 The "sickness" of the lover is distinct from other illnesses. Love is
the astrolabe2 of the secrets of God.

Whether being a lover is from this or that origin, eventually it is
our guide to that (Divine) Origin.3

Whatever I say about Love, (in regard to) description and
explanation, when I reach Love (itself) I am ashamed of that
[inadequate description].

(For) although the explanation of the tongue is (an excellent)
illuminator,4yet Love (expressed) without the tongue is (much)

When the pen was hurrying in writing [descriptions], when it
reached Love, it shattered against itself.

115 In (attempting) its explanation, the intellect lay down5 like a
donkey (stuck helplessly) in the mud. (Only) Love (itself) spoke
(the real) explanation of both love and being in love.

116 The sun is the demonstration of the sun:6if you need proof,
seek it) from (the sun)-- (and) don't turn (your) face away!

--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" (, 5/18/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (109) Love sickness [`âshiqî]: also means "being a lover,"
"loverhood," "being in love." Nicholson translated, "Being in love
is made manifest by soreness of heart..."

Just prior to this line is the opening section of Rumi's first story
in the Mathnawi, about a king who fell in love with a maiden.
However,she was unhappy with him and began to look and act
sickly. A wise physician came and discovered that she was actually
physically healthy, but heart-sick from being in love with someone
else, whom she grievously missed: "Her suffering was not from (an
excess of) yellow or black bile. The scent of every (kind of)
firewood is made evident from the (type of) smoke (it produces).
He saw from her (type of) misery that it was the misery of the
heart; (her) body was well, but she was the prisoner of the heart"
(I: 107-08). Nicholson commented here: "i.e. the hidden nature and
quality of a thing is indicated by the effects which it produces."
(Commentary) The present line then follows ("Love sickness is
clearly shown by the heart's misery").

2. (110) Love is the astrolabe: means that only love can "measure"
and understand the depths of Divine mysteries-- not the intellect.
The astrolabe is an ancient astronomical device, "an instrument for
measuring the altitude of the stars and solving the problems of
spherical astronomy." (Nicholson, Commentary) Nicholson also
made a reference to a related verse, which he translated, "Hence
you and your intellect are like the astrolabe: by this means you
may know the nearness of the Sun of existence" (IV: 3685).

3. (111) to that (Divine) Origin: means that being a lover eventually
guides us to the Source of Love which is God, the Only Beloved.
Nicholson translated, "Whether love be from this (earthly) side or
from that (heavenly) side, in the end it leads us yonder." Nicholson
said about this line: "The poet explains that what was said of love
in the preceding verse bears a general application. Love, whether
its immediate object be Divine or human, real or phenomenal,
leads ultimately to knowledge of God and union with Him. All
earthly beauty is but the reflexion of Heavenly Beauty, and as the
reflexion fades away we turn our eyes towards the Light whence it
came." (Commentary)

4. (113) illuminator: literally, "polisher." The meaning is that the
nature of Love is revealed much more brightly and clearly when
expressed in a non-verbal way. Nicholson explained that this term
means "polisher" and "elucidator": "In I 3350 it is used of the
angels, who keep their hearts pure and unsoiled with sin."
(Commentary) Nicholson translated this particular line as, "God
said to them, 'If ye are enlightened'..." And he explained that
"enlightened" literally means "polishers." (Footnote) He explained
the meaning of "Love (expressed) without the tongue is (much)
clearer": "i.e. the signs of love, such as agitation, pallor, and tears,
speak for themselves. Cf. the saying, lisánu 'l-hál antaqu min lisáni
'l-maqál, 'the tongue of inward feeling is more eloquent than the
tongue of discourse'." (Commentary)

5. (115) the intellect lay down: "The discursive reason (`aql-i
ma`ásh), which maintains a distinction between the subject and
object of thought, cannot possibly comprehend or describe the
nature of mystical union. This is a mystery that Love reveals to the
lover by immediate experienced (man lam yadhuq lam yadri)"
[= He who doesn't taste doesn't know] (Nicholson, Commentary)

6. (116) The sun itself is the demonstration of the sun: Nicholson
explained that this is "A famous and oft-quoted verse" (of Rumi's),
and related it to a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad: 'I
know my Lord through my Lord' (`araftu Rabbí bi-Rabbí). To
mystics their 'inner light' is its own evidence." (Commentary)


109 `âshiqî paydâ-st az zâriy-é del
nêst bîmârê chô bîmâriy-é del

110 `illat-é `âshiq ze `illat-hâ jodâ-st
`ishq aSTurlâb-é asrâr-é khodâ-st

`âshiqî gar z-în sar-o gar z-ân sar-ast
`âqibat mâ-râ ba-d-ân sar rahbar-ast

har-che gôy-am `ishq-râ sharH-o bayân
chûn ba-`ishq ây-am khajil bâsh-am az ân

gar-che tafsîr-é zabân rôshan-gar-ast
lêk `ishq-é bê-zabân rôshan-tar-ast

chûn qalam andar neweshtan mê-shetâft
chûn ba-`ishq âmad qalam bar khwad shekâft

115 `aql dar sharH-ash chô khar dar gel be-khoft
sharH-é `ishq-o `âshiqî ham `ishq goft

116 âftâb âmad dalîl-é âftâb
gar dalîl-at bây-ad az way rô ma-tâb

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)