Who Is That At the Door?

Mathnawi I: 3052-3067, 3077-3080, 3099-3100

3052 (Regarding the verse), "Everything will perish except His
Face,"1 don't seek existence if you are not within His Face.2

Whoever is annihilated3 within My Face,4 is not recompensed5
by (the verse) "Everything will perish."

(This is) because he is in (the condition of) "except (Him)," (and
so) he has passed beyond "not (any divinity)."6 Whoever is in
"except (Him)" has not perished [from true Existence].

3055 Whoever is saying "I" and "we" at the door is rejected at the
door7 and is (still) involved in [the illusion of] "not (any divinity)."

The story of the person who knocked on the door of a friend. (The
friend) said from within, "Who is that?" He answered, "It's me."8
The friend said, "Since you are you, I will never open the door. I
don't know anyone among (my) friends who is "me," (so) go

Someone came (and) knocked on the door of a friend. His friend
said, "Who are you, O trustworthy one?"

He answered, "Me." (The friend) said, "Go (away), it's not the
(right) time. At such a table as this8 there is no place for the raw."10

What can cook the raw one, except the fire of separation. What
(else) can free him from hypocrisy?

That poor miserable man left and traveled for a year. He burned
from sparks [of painful longing] in separation from (his) friend.

3060 That burned one became "cooked," (and) then returned. He
went back to the house of (his former) companion.

(Using) the door-ring, he knocked at the door with a hundred
worries and courtesies [in mind], so that no rude words might
spring forth from (his) lips.

His friend called out, "Who is that at the door?" He answered,
"Only you11 are at the door, O seizer of hearts!"12

(The friend) said, "Now, since you are me, O me, come in,
(since) there's no room for two 'me's' in the house.

"The two ends of the thread are not (suitable) for the needle. (So),
if you are a single strand,13 come into the needle."

3065 (Only) the thread becomes connected with the needle; the eye
of the needle is not appropriate for a camel.14

The camel's existence can never become thin except by (means of)
the shears of strict exercises15 and work.

3067 (But) for that, O so-and-so, the Power of God is needed--
since it is the "Be! And it was"16 for every (apparently) impossible

. . . . . . .

3077 The friend told him, "Come in, O (you who are) entirely me,
(and) not contrary like the rose and thorn of the garden."

(Since) the thread has become single, don't go into error now if
you see the letters "B" and "E" [of the word "Be!"]17 as two-fold.

(The letters) "B" and "E" are pulling, like a lasso, in order to
draw the non-existent18 into important matters [in the world of

3080 Therefore, the lasso must be two-fold in (the world) of forms,
although those two (strands) are (actually) single in effect.

. . . . . . .

3099 Know that the world of Unity is beyond the side (known to)
the senses. (So) if you want Unity, ride toward that (other) side.

3100 The (Divine) Command of "Be!" was a single act. And
(although the letters) "B" and "E" occurred in words, the meaning
is pure and unmixed.

--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), 1/27/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (3052) His Face: from a verse in the Qur'an, altered for metrical
purposes in a mixture of the original Arabic words and Persian
translation. "And do not invoke (in prayer) another god besides
(the One True) God. There is not (any) divinity except Him [lâ
ilâha illâ huwa]. Everything will perish except His Face [kullu
shay-in hâlik-un illâ wajha-hu]. With Him is the Judgment, and to
Him (all of) you will be returned." (28:88) Muhammad Asad's
translation reads, "Everything is bound to perish, save His [eternal]
Self." Asad explained that in classical Arabic, the word "face" can
mean "the 'self' or 'whole being' of a person-- in this case, the
essential Being, or Reality, of God." Nicholson made a similar
interpretation that "Face" in Rumi's verse here equals "Dhát," or
the Divine Essence. (Commentary)

2. (3052) if you are not in His Face: "i.e. 'seek only the real and
essential existence which God bestows on those who have
abandoned their imaginary and phenomenal self-existence (hastí)'."
(Nicholson, Commentary) For advanced sufis, "(separate)
existence is a sin [khaTâ]"-- or a wrong, an error (Mathnawi I: 517;
Nicholson's Commentary on this line includes a verse from the sufi
master Junayd (died, 910): "When I say, 'What sin [dhanb] have I
committed'? she says in reply,/ 'Your life/self-existence is a sin
with which no sin can be compared'.")

3. (3053) annihilated [fanâ]: a technical term in sufism, meaning
"mystical death" or passing away from the transient (such as one's
thoughts, personality, and identity) and remaining in essential
subsistence [baqâ] in God. These terms are based on the Qur'anic
verse: "All that is upon (the earth) will pass away [fân-in], but the
Face of your Lord will abide [yabqâ], full of Majesty and Glory."

4. (3053) within My Face: "Here the poet speaks with the voice of
God." (Nicholson, Commentary) Nicholson translated, "When any
one has passed away (from himself) in my face (essence)..."

5. (3053) is not recompensed: Nicholson translated, "(the words)
everything is perishing are not applicable (to him)."

6. (3054) "except (Him)" and "not (any divinity)": refer to the verse
quoted above: "There is not (any) divinity except Him." "lá [=
"not"] equals the self-existence which really is non-existence; illá
[= "except"] equals real existence in God." (Nicholson,

7. (3055) at the door Nicholson translated, "at the door (of the Divine

8. (Heading) It's me: "This famous apologue may have been
suggested, as the Turkish commentators believe by a Hadíth.... 'I
came to the Prophet's door and knocked. He said, "Who is there?" I
answered, "I". He said, "I", "I", as though he disliked it.'"
(Nicholson, Commentary).

9. (3057) At such a table as this: means, "at such a mystical feast."
The word translated as "table" means a cloth placed on the ground
or floor, around which people ate their meals.

10. (3057) raw [khâm]: a technical sufi term which also means unripe,
immature, inexperienced, unprepared, unrefined, uncooked,
bearing no fruit. Means immature on the spiritual path, and is the
opposite of "ripe" or "cooked" [pokhta]. Rumi has been quoted as
saying, "The result of my life is no more than three words: I was
raw [khâm], I became cooked [pokhta], I was burnt [sokht]."
However, in the earliest manuscripts, this line is: "The result for
me is no more than these three words: I am burnt, I am burnt, I am
burnt." (Dîvân, ghazal 1768).

11. (3062) Only you: Nicholson comments, "According to the early
sufi Sarí al-Saqatí [died, 867], there is no true love between two
persons till each says to the other, 'yá ana,' 'O (thou who art) I.'" He
also mentions ". . .the verse of Halláj [died 922], 'I beheld my Lord
with the eye of my Lord. He said, "Who art thou?" I answered,
'Thou' " (Commentary)

12. (3062) seizer of hearts: an idiom meaning "beloved who has won
the love of my heart."

13. (3064) a single strand: "The mystic becomes 'single' when he
ceases to be conscious of himself as an alter ego besides God, who
is the only real Ego." (Nicholson, Commentary)

14. (3065) camel: a reference to the verse, ". . . nor will they enter the
Garden, until the camel can pass through the eye of the needle:
such is Our reward for those in sin." (Qur'an 7:40)

15. (3066) strict exercises [riyâzât]: a technical sufi term for austere
disciplines (usually assigned by a spiritual master) so that the
disciple may become spiritually matured and "cooked." And here it
means that the "camel" of ego and ego-centered cravings may
become thin and thread-like.

16. (3067) Be and it was: a modification (for purposes of rhyme and
meter) of the Qur'anic words (as in 19:35): "When He determines a
matter, He only says to it, 'Be!' and it is [kun fa-yakûn]."

17. (3078) the letters "B" and "E" [of the word "Be!"]: In the text, the
letters are "K" and "N" in the Arabic word "kun," which means
"Be!." In the earliest Arabic of the Qur'an, only the consonants
were written-- "kn"-- and the vowel "u" was not (but was added in
latter copies as a mark above the consonant letters). "Although the
Creative Word KuN consists of two letters, yet essentially it is one,
and its effect, i.e. its bringing the whole contingent universe into
being, is single; it may be compared to a noose which, though
double in form, has but one meaning and object, namely, to draw
the world, hidden in the knowledge of God, from potential into
actual existence. Khutúb [= "important matters"-- translated by
Nicholson as "great affairs"] refers to the great issues at stake in
the life-experience of the soul." (Nicholson, Commentary)

18. (3079) the non-existent: in Islamic philosophy, the term "non-
existent" here means something which has essential existence (in
the "Mind of God," so to speak) in the world of non-existent
essences. By means of the Divine Command, "Be!", such essences
are manifested in the material world of existence.


3052 kullu shay-in hâlik-un joz wajh-é ô
chûn na-î dar wajh-é ô hastî ma-jô

har-ke andar wajh-é mâ bâsh-ad fanâ
kulla shay-in hâlik-un na-b'w-ad jazâ

z-ân-ke dar illâ-st ô az lâ goZasht
har-ke dar illâ-st ô fânî na-gasht

3055 har-ke bar dar ô man-o mâ mê-zan-ad
radd-é bâb-ast ô-wo bar lâ mê-tan-ad

qiSSa-yé ân kas ke dar-é yârê be-kôft az darûn goft kî-st ân, goft
man-am, goft chûn tô tow-î dar na-mê-goshây-am hêch kas-râ az
yâr-ân na-mê-shenâs-am ke ô man bâsh-ad, be-raw

ân yakê âm-ad dar-é yârê be-zad
goft yâr-ash kî-st-î ay mu`tamad?

goft man, goft-ash be-raw hangâm nêst
bar chon-în khwânê maqâm-é khâm nêst

khâm-râ joz âtesh-é hajr-o firâq
kay paz-ad, kay wâ rahân-ad az nifâq?

raft ân miskîn-o sâlê dar safar
dar firâq-é dôst sôzîd az sharar

3060 pokhta gasht ân sôkhta pas bâz gasht
bâz gard-é khâna-yé ham-bâz gasht

Halqa zad bar dar ba-Sad tars-o adab
tâ be-na-j'h-ad bê-adab lafZê ze-lab

bâng zad yâr-ash ke bar dar kî-st ân?
goft bar dar ham tô'î ay del-setân

goft aknûn chûn man-î, ay man dar â
nêst gonjây-é dô man-râ dar sarâ

nêst sôzan-râ sar-é reshta-yê dô-tâ
chûn-ke yak-tây-î dar-în sôzan dar â

3065 reshta-râ bâ sôzan âm-ad irtibâT
nêst dar khwar bâ jamal sammu 'l-khiyâT

kay shaw-ad bârîk hastiy-é jamal
joz ba miqrâZ-é riyâZât-o `amal?

3067 dast-é Haq bây-ad mar ân-râ ay fulân
k-ô bow-ad bar har muHâlê kun fa-kân

. . . . . . .

3077 goft yâr-ash k-andar â ay jomla man
nay mukhâlif chûn gol-o khâr-é chaman

reshta yaktâ shod, ghalaT kam shaw konûn
gar dô-tâ bîn-î Hurûf-é kâf-o nûn

kâf-o nûn ham-chûn kamand âmad jaZûb
tâ kashân-ad mar `adam-râ dar khuTûb

3080 pas dô-tâ bây-ad kamand andar Suwar
gar-che yaktâ bash-ad ân dô dar aSar

. . . . . . .

3099 z-ân sôy-é His `âlam-é tawHîd dân
gar yakî khwâh-î, ba-d-ân jânib be-rân

3100 amr-é kon yak fa`l bûd-o nûn-o kâf
dar sokhon oftâd-o ma`nà bûd Sâf

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)