Guard Your Thoughts

Mathnawi I: 3124-3149

(How) Noah-- may (God's) peace be upon him-- warned the
people, saying, "Don't rebel against me, since I am (merely) a
face-veil.1 O forsaken ones, in reality, you are rebelling against
God (who is present) underneath this (veil)."

3124 Noah said (to his people), "O stubborn ones! I am not me-- I
have died (and am free) from the (lower) soul2 and am living by
means of the Beloved.3

3125 "Since I have died (and am freed) from the senses of the
father of mankind,4 God has become my hearing, perceiving, and

"(And) because I am not me, this breath6 (of mine) is from Him.
Whoever breathes (a word) in the presence of this breath is a

The lion is (appearing) in the form of the fox. Going bravely
toward this (kind) of fox is not suitable (at all)!

If you don't accept the appearance of his form, you won't hear the
fierce roar of the lions.8

If Noah had not had a (helping) hand from God,9 then how could
he have overthrown a (whole) world?10

3130 He was (like) a hundred thousand lions in a (single) body; he
was like fire and the world (was like) a harvest stack.

(But) since the stack didn't keep its portion of a tenth11 (for
charity), (Noah) sent such a (consuming) fire upon that stack.

Whoever rudely opens his mouth, like the wolf,12 in the presence
of this hidden lion,

That lion will tear him up, like the wolf, (and) will recite to him
(the verse), "So We took punishing payment from them."13

(And) he will receive wounds from the lion's paws, like the wolf.
(For) the one who went boldly in front of the lion is foolish

3135 If only those wounds had come upon the body, so it might
have been that (his) faith and heart were (kept) sound (instead)!

My strength broke when it reached this place, (for) how am I able
to reveal this secret.14

Keep (yourself) decreased of belly, like the fox,15 (and) don't play
fox's tricks in His presence.

Put (down) all (your assertions of) "I and we" before Him.16 (And)
give the kingdom to Him, since it is His kingdom.17

(For) if you become poor men18 in the true path, the lion19 and the
lion's prey are yours.

3140 Because He is Pure and Holy, and His quality is
(Transcendent) Glory. He is free from needing wonderful
things-- either the (inward) kernel or the (outward) shell
[of anything].

Any hunted quarry or miraculous gifts which exist is for the sake
of the servants of that King.20

(For) the King has no desire (for anything). He made this entire
dominion for the sake of created beings. The one who has known
(this) is happy (indeed)!

What need does He have for (worldly) kingdoms and dominions?--
the one who created (all) dominions as well as this world and the

Therefore, guard (your) hearts21 (carefully) in the presence of the
Glorious One, so that you don't become ashamed because of
bad opinions.

3145 For he sees (our) hidden thoughts and ideas, (and our)
searching and seeking-- just as (clearly as) a bit of hair in pure

The one whose heart22 has become pure (and) free of images23 is a
mirror for images from the Invisible (world).

He knows for certain our hidden thoughts, without a doubt,
because "the believer is a mirror24 for (another) believer."

When he rubs our coin25 against the touchstone,26 he then knows
the distinction between certainty and doubt.

3149 (And) when his soul becomes the touchstone for coins, he
then will see (the difference between) counterfeit and the (true)

--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" (, 6/1/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (Heading) I am (merely) a face-veil: "The bodily nature of the
Perfect man is nothing but a mask for the Divine attributes and
actions." (Nicholson, Commentary) Regarding this, Nicholson
referred to the lines beginning at IV: 2102 ("Bayazid, the great
dervish, came to his disciples (and) said, "Look! I am God!").

2. (3124) the (lower) soul: means the unpurified soul, dominated by
ego. When undisciplined, it is called the "soul which commands
(the doing of) evil" (Qur'an 12:53); when improved by discipline it
is called the "self-blaming soul" (Qur'an 75:2).

3. (3124) I am living by means of the Beloved: means the state of the
"tranquil soul," which is "well-pleased and well-pleasing" to God
(Qur'an 89:27-30). The word for "Beloved" [jânân] is a pun on the
word for "soul" (jân). Nicholson translated, "I am living through
the Soul of souls."

4. (3125) the father of mankind: means Adam, but here means the
ordinary human senses and ordinary perceptions. Nicholson
translated, "the father of mankind (human sense-perceptions)."

5. (3125) and seeing: refers to the Divine saying [hadith al-qudsi]
related by the Prophet Muhammad: "... And My servant continues
to draw near to Me with extra devotions until I love him. And
when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing
with which he sees, his hand with which he seizes, and his foot
with which he walks." This is a favorite saying among the sufis.
Rumi said, "To him He has said, 'I am your tongue and eye; I am
your senses and your satisfaction and wrath. Go, for you are (the
object of My saying), "By Me he hears and by Me he sees." You
are the secret. What (is that)? You are (in) the place of the
Possessor of the secret'" (Mathnawi I: 1937-38).

6. (3126) breath [dam]: also has the idiomatic meaning of "word"--
meaning his words really come from God, and others should be
silent in the presence of these words.

7. (3126 denier [kâfir]: this word, sometimes incorrectly translated
as "infidel," means here someone who denies, rejects, and
disbelieves that God is able to send revelations, in a chosen human
language, to humanity through the lips of His chosen prophets
(such as Noah, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad).

8. (3128) the fierce roar of the lions: "i.e. 'you will not be aware of
the Majesty and Omnipotence which are disguised by his outward
appearance'." (Nicholson, Commentary) Nicholson translated,
"Unless thou believe in him from his exterior aspect (accept him in
the form in which he appears), thou wilt not hear from him the
lions' roar."

9. (3129 a (helping) hand from God: Nicholson later changed his
translation, based on the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawi, to
"Unless Noah had had a hand (a powerful aid) from God, why
should he have cast a whole world into confusion?" (from, "If
Noah had not been the Eternal Lion...").

10. (3129) overthrown a (whole) world: refers to the Flood:
"Previously, the people of Noah rejected Our servant, called him
crazy, and he was driven away. So he called out to his Sustaining
Lord: 'I am defeated, so help (me)!' Then We opened the gates of
the sky, with water pouring down. And we made the earth to burst
open with springs (of water), so that the waters met according to an
ordained measure. And We made him to be carried on that (ark)
which was made of (wooden) planks and nails..." (Qur'an 54: 9-13)

11. (3131) its portion of a tenth: refers to the required tax for the poor.
In Judaism, it was a tenth (or tithe) and in Islam it a tenth [`ushr] of
crops and a fourth of a tenth for money. Since the world
(symbolized by the stack) would not obey Noah (in this non-
Qur'anic story) by paying the charity tax, he called for the world to
be consumed. "Since Noah's people would not pay him the 'tithe'
(reverence and obedience) due to God's Khalífah [= Caliph,
representative], they were consumed by the flames of Divine
wrath." (Nicholson, Commentary)

12. (3132) like the wolf: refers to the story, just prior, of how a lion
went hunting, attended by a fox and a wolf. After catching an ox, a
goat, and a fat rabbit, the lion asked the wolf how the prey should
be divided. The wolf answered that the lion should have the ox, the
little fox should have the rabbit, and he should have the middle-
sized goat. The kingly lion tore the wolf to pieces for his rudeness
(or lack of "adab"), by mentioning himself as "I" in the lion's royal
presence. (3124) punishing payment from them: Qur'an, 7:136;
15:79; 43:24. Means, here, that God inflicted a "tax" on them (for
their refusal to pay the charity tax) which He took from them--
meaning their lives.

13. (3133) "So We took punishing payment from them": refers to the
drowning of Pharaoh and his army. "So We took punishing
payment from them. For We drowned them in the sea, because
they rejected Our signs and were oblivious of them." (Qur'an

14. (3136) this secret: "i.e. the mystery of infidelity and spiritual
blindness, which involves 'the mystery of predestination' (sirru
'l-qadar) and the abstruse theological questions connected with it."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

15. (3137) like the fox: in the story just prior, the lion asked the fox
how the prey should be divided. The fox answered that the lion
should have the ox for breakfast, the goat for lunch, and the rabbit
for supper. The lion was so pleased with the fox's respectful
courtesy (and selflessness), that he gave all the carcasses to the fox
as a gift.

16. (3138) before Him: means, "Surrender your identity before God's
Identity. The "kingly lion" is primarily a symbol for God here, but
also symbolizes the spiritual master, saint or prophet. "Some
commentators regard this and the following seven verses as a
description of the Perfect Man, but formally at any rate the
reference is to God himself." (Nicholson, Commentary)

17. (3138) it is His kingdom [mulk-é ô-st]: "Blessed be He, in whose
hands is the Kingdom [mulk]." (Qur'an 67: 1)

18. (3139) poor men (faqîr): means someone on the sufi path of
spiritual poverty (faqr), being lacking in egotism, selfishness,
greed, etc. in the presence of God, who is the Rich.

19. (3139) the lion: the meaning of "the lion is yours" here refers to the
prior story, and the verses (translated by Nicholson): "The lion
said, 'Inasmuch as thou hast become pledged to love of me, pick up
all the three (animals), and take (them) and depart. O fox, since
thou hast become entirely mine, how should I hurt thee when thou
hast become myself?'" (I:3110-11)

20. (3141) the servants [banda-gân] of that King: literally, "the slaves."
"... i.e. the saints." "... i.e. he serves none other than God and loses
himself in the Object of his devotion; hence the paradox... that
perfect 'servitude' (`ubúdiyyah) is the essence of freedom
(hurriyyah). 'You are not truly His slave (`abduhu)', said an
eminent Súfí, 'till you become free'." (Nicholson, Commentary)

21. (3144) guard (your) hearts: according to ancient physiological
psychology, the heart was the source of thoughts. Guarding one's
thoughts is a traditional sufi practice (called "murâqabah"): a type
of God-centered meditation in which thoughts about other than
God are guarded against, by bringing the mind back to focussing
on the Presence of God. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon
him) said, "Sincerity (in religion) is to worship God as if you saw
Him; but if you don't see Him, know that He sees you!" Nicholson
later changed his translation, based on the earliest manuscript, to
"keep watch, then, over your hearts" (from, "keep close watch over
your hearts").

22. (3146) whose heart [sîna]: literally, "chest." See previous note.

23. (3146) free of images: means free of mental images of worldly
things, which can then lead to intuiting knowledge about heavenly

24. (3147 the believer is a mirror: "according to the Hadíth al-
mu'minu mir'átu 'l-mu'mini, the true believers who 'see by the light
of God'... know intuitively all that is in each other's hearts; and
their clairvoyance can penetrate the most secret thoughts."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

25. (3148) When he rubs our coin: Nicholson later changed his
translation, to "When he rubs our coin" (from, "When he rubs our
(spiritual) poverty").

26. (3148 touchstone: a type of stone used by goldsmiths to determine
if a metal is true gold or not, per the color produced by rubbing the
golden object on it.

27. (3149) counterfeit and the (true) heart: a pun between the two
meanings of the word "qalb": "counterfeit" (or "false coin") and


tahdîd kardan nûH-- `alay-hi 's-salâm-- mar qawm-râ ke bâ
man ma-pêch-îd ke man rô-pôsh-am bâ khodây mê-pêch-îd
dar meyân-é în ba-Haqîqat ay makhZûl-ân

3124 goft nûH ay sar-kash-ân man man ne-y-am
man ze-jân mord-am, ba-jânân mê-zey-am

3125 chûn be-mord-am az hawâss-é bû 'l-bashar
Haq ma-râ shod sam`-o idrâk-o baSar

chûn-ke man man nêst-am în dam ze-hû-st
pêsh-é în dam har-ke dam zad kâfir ô-st

hast andar naqsh-é în rôbâh shêr
sôy-é în rôbah na-shây-ad shod delêr

gar ze-rôy-é sûrat-ash mê-na-g'raw-î
ghorra-yé shêr-ân az-ô mê-na-sh'naw-î

gar na-bûd-y nûH-râ az Haq yadê
pas jahânê-râ che-râ bar-ham zad-y?

3130 Sad hazâr-ân shêr bûd ô dar tanê
ô chô âtesh bûd-o `âlam khermanê

chûn-ke kherman pâs-é `ushr-é ô na-dâsht
ô chon-ân shu`la bar ân kherman gomâsht

har-ke ô dar pêsh-é în shêr-é nehân
bê-adab chûn gorg be-g'shây-ad dahân

ham-chô ân shêr bar derrân-ad-ash
f-antaqam-nâ bin-humu bar khwân-ad-ash

zakm yâb-ad ham-chô gorg az dast-é shêr
pêsh-é shêr ablah bow-ad k-ô shod delêr

3135 kâsha-kî ân zakhm bar tan âmad-y
tâ bod-y k-îmân-o del sâlim bod-y

quwwat-am be-g'sist chûn în-jâ rasîd
chûn tawân-am kard în sir-râ padîd?

ham-chûn ân rôbah kam-é ishkam kon-îd
pêsh-é ô rôbâh-bâzî kam kon-îd

jumla mâ-wo man ba-pêsh-é ô neh-îd
mulk mulk-é ô-st, mulk ô-râ deh-îd

chûn faqîr ây-îd andar râh-é râst
shêr-ô Sayd-é shêr khwad ân-é shomâ-st

3140 z-ân-ke ô pâk-ast-o subHân wasf-é ô-st
bê-neyâz-ast ô ze-naghz-o maghz-o pôst

har shekâr-o har karâmâtê ke hast
az barây-é banda-gân-é ân shah-ast

nêst shah-râ Tam` bahr-é khalq sâkht
în hama dawlat khonok ân-k-ô shenâkht

ân-ke dawlat âfarîd-o dô sarâ
mulk-o dawlat-hâ che kâr ây-ad ô-râ?

pêsh-é subHân pas negah dâr-îd del
tâ na-gard-îd az gomân-é bad khajel

3145 k-ô be-bîn-ad sirr-o fikr-o jost-o jô
ham-chô andar shîr-é khâliS târ-é mô

ân-ke ô bê-naqsh sâda sîna shod
naqsh-hây-é ghayb-râ âyîna shod

sirr-é mâ-râ bê-gomân mawqin shaw-ad
z-ân-ke mû'min âyena-yé mû'min bow-ad

chûn zan-ad ô naqd-é mâ-râ bar miHak
pas yaqîn-râ bâz dân-ad ô ze shak

3149 chûn shaw-ad jân-ash miHakk-é naqd-hâ
pas bo-bîn-ad qalb-râ wo qalb-râ

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)