The Wisdom of Luqman

Mathnawi I: 3584-3607

3584 In the presence of his master, Luqman1 (was) despised
(because) of (having a black) body amidst his (other) slaves.

3585 He would send the slaves to the orchard so that fruit might
come to him for his relaxation and enjoyment.

Among the slaves, Luqman was (viewed) as a parasite.2 (He was)
dark of appearance like the night, (yet) full of deep understanding.

Those slaves happily ate (up) all of the fruits, due to the plundering
(nature) of greed.

They told the master (that) Luqman ate them, (so that) the master
became bitter and gravely serious toward Luqman.

When Luqman inquired about the cause, he opened (his) lips in
disapproval of his master.

3590 Luqman said, "O princely master! In the presence of God, a
faithless servant is not approved.

"(So) test all of us. O noble (master): give us an excessive fill of
hot water,

"(And) after that, (make us go) into a great desert, you riding (on a
mount and) we running on foot.

"Then observe the wrong-doer (as well as) the actions of the
Revealer of Secrets!"3

The master became the water-server of hot water for the
slaves and they drank it out of fear.

3595 After that, he forced them into the desert plains. That group
of men were running up and down4 (the hills).

They began vomiting due to (their) misery, (and) the water
brought (forth) the fruit from (within) them.

When Luqman happened to vomit from the center (of his belly),
(only) pure water was coming up from his inside.

If the wisdom of Luqman knows (about) this demonstration, then
(think) what the Wisdom of the Lord of Existence is (in comparison)!

"(On) the Day (when)" all "hidden things will be put to the test,"5
something hidden and unwished-for will appear from
(within) you.

3600 (And) when they are "given hot water to drink,"6 all the veils
will be "torn up" from (hiding) what is utterly detestable.

(Hell) fire will be the punishment of the rejecters7 (of God), since
fire is the (best) test for stones.8

How many (times) we have spoken mildly to these hearts (of ours)
like stones-- and they did not accept (our) advice!

The vein gets a painful remedy for a harmful wound, (and) the
dog's teeth [are the correction] for the donkey's [stubborn] head.9

"Corrupt women" are for "corrupt men"10 is wisdom. For an ugly
and rude (woman), an equally ugly and rude (man) is the mate
and suitable (companion).

3605 Therefore, whatever companion you want, go (and) become
absorbed and (take on) a similar appearance and (also) her qualities.

If you want light, become worthy to receive light. (And) if you
want distance [from the light of God], become self-centered11 and

3607 And if you want a way (to escape) from this ruined prison,
don't draw (your) head away from the Beloved, "but prostrate
(yourself) and draw near (to God)."12

--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" (, 5/11/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (3584) Luqman: mentioned in the Qur'an (chapter 31) as having
received wisdom from God. Nicholson said, "He appears as a
sagacious [= wise] negro slave in several anecdotes related by
Rúmí." Nicholson also notes that this anecdote "is identical with a
story which occurs in the 14th cent. 'Life of Aesop' by Maximus
Planudes. The medieval Arabic version of Aesop's Fables is
ascribed to Luqmán." (Commentary)

2. (3586) a parasite: means viewed with resentment like an unwanted

3. (3593) the Revealer of Secrets: means God. "And He is God in the
heavens and on earth. He knows your secret (thoughts) as well as
your open (words)" (Qur'an 6:3).

4. (3595) running up and down: Nicholson later changed his
translation, based on the earliest manuscript, to "those persons
were running up and down" (from, "they were running amidst the

5. (3599) (On) the Day (when) hidden things will be put to the test: a
verse from the Qur'an, modified for the meter: "(On) the Day
(when) hidden things will be put to the test, (man) will have no
power and no helper" (86: 9-10). This refers to the Day of
Judgment when hidden thoughts and secret deeds will be plainly
revealed in the light of Truth.

6. (3600) hot water to drink: "and (they will) be given hot water to
drink so that it will tear their intestines" (Qur'an 47:15). This
symbolizes the future suffering of sinners in Hell. Rumi interprets
the verse in terms of the story: that what will be torn up will be the
veils covering what people do not wish to be revealed. Their veils
are like intestines, hiding the utterly detestable excrement of their
hidden sins. In contrast, the "intestines" of the pious and saintly
servants of God, like Luqman, will be shown to be clean and full
of pure water. Nicholson later changed his translation, based on the
earliest manuscript, to "from the things which (when they are
revealed) are found to be abominable" (from, "from that which is

7. (3601) the rejecters: Orientalists often mis-translate the Qur'anic
word "kâfir" as "infidel." However, it means those who reject,
deny, and disbelieve that there is One God, whose Light of Truth
and Justice will inevitably expose all hidden lies and wrongdoing.

8. (3601) fire is the (best) test for stones: Nicholson linked this line to
the verse, "Then your hearts hardened after this, so that they
became like rocks, or even harder" (Qur'an 2:74). (Commentary) In
this sense, fire is the best way to soften stones that have become

9. (3603) the donkey's [stubborn] head: means the donkey which is
stubbornly going in the wrong direction. Nicholson notes that this
saying about the donkey is a proverb (Commentary).

10. (3604) corrupt men: refers to the verse, "Corrupt women are for
corrupt men and corrupt men are for corrupt women. And good
women are for good men and good men are for good women"
(Qur'an 24:26). This means that corrupt people are attracted to the
company other corrupt people, whereas good and virtuous people
are attracted to the company of other good and virtuous people.
The idea that like-minded people (which Nicholson translated as
"congeners") attract each other is a frequent teaching of Rumi's in
the Mathnawi.

11. (3606) self-centered [khwêsh-bîn]: literally, "seeing (only)
yourself," and is an idiom meaning conceited, arrogant, proud.
Means becoming so involved with ego-centered preoccupations
that one forgets about God, and therefore becomes distant from the
Only Beloved.

12. (3607) "but prostrate (yourself) and draw near (to God)": Qur'an


3584 bûd luqmân pêsh-é khwâja-yé khwêshtan
dar meyân-é banda-gân-ash khwâr-tan

3585 mê-ferestâd ô ghulâm-ân-râ ba-bâgh
tâ ke mêwa ây-ad-ash bahr-é firâgh

bûd luqmân dar ghulâm-ân chûn Tufayl
por ma`ânî, têra-Sûrat ham-chô layl

ân ghulâm-ân mêwa-hây-é jam`-râ
khwash be-khward-and az nahîb-é Tam`-râ

khwâja-râ goft-and luqmân khward ân
khwâja bar luqmân torosh gasht-o gerân

chûn tafaHHuS kard luqmân az sabab
dar `itâb-é khwâja-ash be-g'shâd lab

3590 goft luqmân sayyid-â pêsh-é khodâ
banda-yé khâ'in na-bâsh-ad murtaZà

imtiHân kon jumla-mân-râ ay karîm
sêr-emân dar deh tô az âb-é Hamîm

ba`d az ân mâ-râ ba-SaHrây-é kalân
tô sowâra, mâ peyâda mê-dawân

ân-gahân be-n'gar tô bad-kardâr-râ
Sun`-hây-é kâshifu l-asrâr-râ

gasht sâqî khwâja az âb-é Hamîm
mar ghulâm-ân-râ wa khward-and ân ze-bîm

3595 ba`d az ân mê-rând-eshân dar dasht-hâ
mê-dawîd-and ân nafar taHt-o `ulà

qay dar oftâd-and êshân az `anâ
âb mê-âward ze-êshân mêwa-hâ

chûn ke luqmân-râ dar âmad qay ze-nâf
mê bar âmad az darûn-ash âb-é Sâf

Hikmat-é luqmân chô dân-ad în namûd
pas che bâsh-ad Hikmat-é rabbu 'l-wujûd?

yawma tublà wa 's-sirâyir kullu-hâ
bâna min-kum kâmin-un lâ yushtahà

3600 chûn suqû mâ-an Hamîm-an quTTi`at
jumlatu 'l-astâri mimmâ ufZi`at

nâr ze-ân âmad `aZâb-é kâfir-ân
ke Hajar-râ nâr bâsh-ad imtiHân

ân del-é chûn sang-râ mâ chand chand
narm goft-ém-o na-mê-peZroft pand

rêsh-é bad-râ dârûy-é bad yâft rag
mar sar-é khar-râ sar-é dandân-é sag

al-khabîSâtu 'l-khabîthîn Hikmat-ast
zesht-râ ham-zesht joft-o bâbat-ast

3605 pas tô har joftê ke mê-khwâh-î be-raw
maHw-o ham-shakl-o Sifât-é ô be-shaw

nûr khwâh-î, musta`idd-é nûr shaw
dûr khwâh-î, khwêsh-bîn-o dûr shaw

3607 war rahê khwâh-î az-în sijn-é kharib
sar ma-kash az dôst w-asjud w-aqtarib

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)