The Dervish Is Needy For God

Mathnawi I: 2752-2772

(On) the difference between the one who is poor for (needing)
God and (is) thirsty for God, and the one who is poor from (not
needing) God and is thirsty for (what is) other (than God).

2752 He is (only) the picture of a (true) dervish1 and is not
deserving of the bread2 (he begs for). Don't throw a bone3 to the
picture of a dog!

He has need (only) for a mouthful, and (has) no need for God.
Don't put a tray (full of food) in front of a lifeless picture!

The poor one needy for bread4 is a fish of the earth;5 (he has) the
shape of a fish, but (is) scared of the ocean.

2755 He is a domestic fowl, not the phoenix6 of the (lofty) air. He
drinks large tasty portions, but isn't drinking from God.7

He is the lover of God (only) for the sake of (worldly) benefit; his
soul is not the lover of the Goodness and Beauty (of God).

(And) if he imagines (having) love for the Essential Being (of
God), opinions about the Names and Attributes (of God) are not
(the same as) the Essence (of God).

Imagination is created8 and has been born, (whereas) God is not
born, for He is "not begotten."9

The lover of his own imagination and opinions will never be
among the lovers of the Lord of Kindness and Grace.

2760 (But) if the lover of those opinions is sincere, those
metaphors of his will become attractors10 to the (Divine) Reality.11

The explanation of these words needs a commentary, but I am
afraid of senile intellects.12

Senile understandings and narrow views bring a hundred fantasies
of evil13 into (a person's) thoughts.

In regard to correct listening, not everyone is successful. The fig
is not the morsel of every little bird14--

Especially a bird (which is) a rotting dead one, one full of (vain)
fantasies, or one blind (and) without eyes.

2765 What (difference does) ocean or land (make) to the picture of
a fish? (And) what (difference does) soap or black grease (make)
to the (dark) color of a Hindu?

If you paint a picture full of sorrow on a sheet of paper, it
doesn't get a lesson15 about (the difference between) sorrow or joy.

Its image (is) sorrowful, yet it (is) free of that. (Or) its image
(is) laughing, yet it (is) without a trace of (the meaning of) that.

And this sorrow and joy, which are a written inscription in the
heart, are nothing but (mere) pictures in the presence of that
(spiritual) joy and sorrow.16

The laughing image of the picture is for your sake, so that by
means of the picture the meaning may become correct17 [in your

2770 The images which are inside the bath houses are like clothes18
(when seen at a distance) outside of the undressing room.19

As long as you are outside, you see nothing but clothes.20 O dear
companion! Enter (the changing room and) take off (your) clothes!

2772 Because there is no way (to) the inside (of the bath) with
your clothes (on).21 (Just as) clothes are unaware of the body, (so
is) the body (unaware) of the soul.

--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" (, 7/27/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (2752) (only) the picture of a dervish: In the section prior to this
line, Rumi's heading stated (as translated by Nicholson), "Showing
that, as the beggar is in love with bounty and in love with the
bountiful giver, so the bounty of the bountiful giver is in love with
the beggar: if the beggar have the greater patience, the bountiful
giver will come to his door; and if the bountiful giver have the
greater patience, the beggar will come to his door; but the beggar's
patience is a virtue in the beggar, while the patience of the
bountiful giver is in him a defect." Nicholson explained the
meaning of this heading: "While the rich man who waits for the
poor to come to his door is deficient in liberality [= generosity], the
poor man who will not wait for the bounty of the rich, but goes to
seek it, is deficient in patience (sabr) and trust in God (tawakkul)."

In the verses that follow (2744-2751), Rumi says, "Bounty is
seeking the beggars and the poor, just as fair ones who seek a clear
mirror. The face of the fair is made beautiful by the mirror, the
face of Beneficence is made visible by the beggar.... In the one
case, his (the giver's) bounty makes the beggar manifest (causes
him to beg), while in the other case he (the giver), (without being
asked), bestows on the beggars more (than they need). Beggars,
then, are the mirror of God's bounty, and they that are with God are
(united with) the Absolute Bounty: And every one except those
two (types of beggar) is truly a dead man: he is not at this door (the
Divine Court), he is (lifeless as) a picture (embroidered) on a

Nicholson explained these verses by quoting from a (contemporary
Indian) commentator of the Mathnawi: "There... are two kinds of
beggars (gadá): (1) he who is the mirror of God's bounty, i.e.
whenever he begs of any one, he looks upon that person essentially
as God and his munificence as the munificence of God; (2) he who
has negated his own seeking and volition and only subsists in the
presence and contemplation of God: he is the Absolute Bounty: he
has sacrificed his individual existence and will to the Divine
Essence and Will. Such an one is perfect." Nicholson then quoted a
(non-Qur'anic) Divine saying [Hadîth al-qudsî]: "When a man is
too much occupied with praising Me (dhikrí) to ask aught of Me, I
give him (what he desires) before he asks Me (for it)."

2. (2752) not deserving of the bread: Nicholson translated, "He (that
seeks other than God) is the (mere) picture of a dervish, he is not
worthy of bread (Divine bounty)..."

3. (2752) a bone: Nicholson later corrected a mistake in his
translation-- to, "do not throw a bone..." (from, "do not throw

4. (2754) the poor one needy of bread: Nicholson translated, "The
dervish that wants bread." The Persian word for "poor, needy one"
[darwêsh] and "poverty" 'darwêshî' were translations of the Arabic
words "faqîr" and "faqr," respectively-- meaning, for the sufis, a
"pious poor one" and "spiritual poverty."

5. (2754) a fish of the earth: Nicholson translated, "land fish." Means
a fresh water fish which avoids salt water. Nicholson noted that
Rumi compares the mystic to a fish in water (as in his comments
on I: 17): "The infinite Divine grace is to the gnostic [= mystic
knower] what water is to the fish, but his thirst can never be
quenched." (Commentary)

6. (2755) the phoenix: literally, the simorgh-- a legendary bird with
magical abilities, sometimes depicted as living on Mt. Qâf, a
mountain imagined as surrounding the world.

7. (2755) drinking from God: means in the form of blessings which
give a strength and sustenance far superior to physical food and

8. (2758) Imagination is created: Nicholson later changed his
translation, based on the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawi, to
"Conception is created; it has been begotten" (from, "Conception is
begotten of qualities and definition").

9. (2758) He is "not begotten": quoted from the famous "Chapter of
the Unity" [sûratu 'l-tawHîd]-- "Say: 'He is God, the (Only) One,
the Eternal. He does not beget, nor is He begotten. And there is no
one comparable to Him." (Qur'an 112:1-4)

10. (2760) will become attractors: Nicholson translated, "that
metaphor (unreal judgement) will lead him to the reality." He
noted that most editions had a different form of the second line, but
after he obtained a copy of the earliest manuscript of the
Mathnawi, he evidently didn't think the difference in word
arrangement warranted a corrected English translation (from, "ân
mazâsh-ash tâ Haqîqat mê-kash-ad").

11. (2760) to the (Divine) Reality: "E.g. though the sálik [= spiritual
seeker] be concerned only with the Divine names and attributes
and their manifestations (not with the Essence), so that he desires
the joys of Paradise, yet on account of his sincere conviction and
devotion to God, by an act of grace, may cause his false ideas to
lead him to Reality." (Nicholson, Commentary)

12. (2761) senile intellects: Nicholson translated, "senile (feeble)

13. (2762) a hundred fantasies of evil: means imagining the worst
outcomes and the worst motives of others.

14. (2763) The fig is not the morsel of every little bird: "The doctrine
of mystical Unity (al-majázu `aynu 'l-haqíqati) [= the metaphor is
the fount of the truth] is for gnostics, since they alone can swallow
and digest it." (Nicholson, Commentary)

15. (2766) it doesn't get a lesson: Nicholson translated, "it has no
lesson (learns nothing)..."

16. (2768) that (spiritual) joy and sorrow: refers to the spiritual delight
which the mystic experiences, either in a state of ecstatic joy or
longing sorrow for the Beloved. After this line (2768), another
line was added to the earliest manuscript, written facing the
margin: "The sorrowful image of the picture is for our sake,/ so
that our memory may come the right way." [Sûrat-é gham-gîn-é
naqsh az bahr-é mâ-st/ tâ ke mâ-râ yâd âyad râh-é râst] This,
perhaps, refers to the soul's memory of its "original homeland" and
its subsequent "exile" to the material world.

17. (2769) the meaning may become correct: "Whether the hypocrite
look sad or glad, the feelings expressed in his demeanour are not
spiritual and real. He is a type of worldly joys and sorrows which,
if you read them rightly, should turn all your thoughts to God."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

18. (2770) like clothes: means that the pictures on the inside walls of
the bath house are unaware of the living things they represent, just
as clothes are unaware of the body (which covers the soul).
Nicholson speculates that Rumi may have been reminded here of a
passage from the earlier sufi poet, Sana'i, in which he "contrasts
the letter of the Qur'án with its spirit and likens the former to the
pictures in a bath-house (naqsh-i garmábah) which know nothing
about the nature of the bath." (Commentary)

19. (2770) outside the dressing room: Nicholson translated this line,
"The pictures (phenomena) which are in these hot baths (the
world), (when viewed) from outside the undressing-room (of
self-abandonment), are like clothes." He explained: " the
present context the 'bath-house' is the world, and the 'pictures'
phenomenal forms. Viewed eternally these forms are mere
'clothes'; in order to perceive the reality concealed by them, you
must enter the 'disrobing-room' (jámah-kan = maslakh) of tajríd
(remotio, self-abstraction), where everything is stripped of
limitations and contemplated in its essence. While clothed with
bodily qualities, you cannot penetrate within and attain to
knowledge of the Spirit which is your real self; for the body is just
as ignorant of the soul as the clothes you wear are unconscious of
your body." (Commentary)

20. (2771) you see nothing but clothes: means that you only see
external reality. The pictures look like real clothes when seen at a
distance, apprently because the images are seen with the changing
room in between. But after entering the changing room, one sees
(more closely) that the images are unreal, one's own worldly
clothes are removed, and one enters a place of purity (the bath).
Nicholson translated this line: "you see only the clothes
(phenomena): put off your clothes and enter (the bath of reality)..."

21. (2772) with your clothes (on): means wearing your worldly
clothes. It should be noted here, that there is no public nudity in
Islamic cultures. Men would go to the bath house, remove their
clothes in a private room, and enter the bath with towels covering
their bodies from the waist to the knees.


farq meyân ân-ke darwêsh-ast ba-khodâ wa
teshna-yé khodâ wa meyân ân-ke darwêsh-ast
az khodâ wa teshna-yé ghayr-ast

2752 naqsh-é darwêsh-ast ô na ahl-é nân
naqsh-é sag-râ tô ma-y-andâz astokhwân

faqr-é luqma dâr-ad ô na faqr-é Haq
pêsh-é naqsh-é morda'yê kam neh Tabaq

mâhî-yé khâkî bow-ad darwêsh-é nân
shakl-é mahî lêk az daryâ ramân

2755 morgh-é khâna-st ô na sîmorgh-é hawâ
lût nôsh-ad ô na-nôsh-ad az khodâ

`âshiq-é Haqq-ast ô bahr-é nawâl
nêst jân-ash `âshiq-é Husn-o jamâl

gar tawahhum mê-kon-ad ô `ishq-é Zât
Zât na-b'w-ad wahm-é asmâ-wo Sifât

wahm makhlûq-ast-o mawlûd âmad-ast
Haq na-zâyîda-st, ô lam yûlad-ast

`âshiq-é taSwîr-o wahm-é khwêshtan
kay bow-ad az `âshiq-ân-é Zû 'l-minan

2760 `âshiq-é ân wahm agar Sâdiq bow-ad
ân majâz-é ô Haqîqat-kash shaw-ad

sharH mê-khwâh-ad bayân-é în sokhon
lêk mê-tars-am ze-afhâm-é kahon

fahm-hây-é kohna-yé kôtah-naZar
Sad kheyâl-é bad dar âr-ad dar fikar

bar samâ`-é râst har kas chîr nêst
luqma-yé har morgh-akê anjîr nêst

khâSa morghê, morda-yé pôsîda-yê
por-kheyâlê, a`miyê, bê-dîda-yé

2765 naqsh-é mâhî-râ che daryâ-wo che khâk
rang-é hendô-râ che Sâbûn-o che zâk?

naqsh agar gham-gîn negâr-î bar waraq
ô na-dâr-ad az gham-o shâdî sabaq

Sûrat-ash gham-gîn-o ô fârigh az ân
Sûrat-ash khandân-o ô z-ân bê-neshân

w-în gham-o shâdî ke andar del khaTê-st
pêsh-é ân shâdî-o gham joz naqsh nêst

Sûrat-é khandân-é naqsh az bahr-é to-st
tâ az ân Sûrat shaw-ad ma`nî dorost

2770 naqsh-hâ'yé k-andar-în Hammâm-hâ-st
az berûn-é jâma-kan chûn jâma-hâ-st

tâ berûn-î, jâma-hâ bîn-î-wo bas
jâma bêrûn kon dar â ay ham-nafas

2773 z-ân-ke bâ jâma darûn-sô râh nêst
tan ze-jân, jâma ze-tan âgâh nêst

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)