The Real Beloved Is Not The Form

Mathnawi II: 679-722

679 The seal of God is upon the hearing1 and sight.2 (For) in
(behind) the veils are many [subtle] forms and sounds.

680 He causes to be sent to the eyes that which He wills of beauty,
perfection, and amorous looks

And He sends to the ears that which He wills of (mystical)
concerts,3 good news, and (ecstatic) shouts (of longing).

Existence is full of remedies, (but there are) no remedies for you as
long as God doesn't open a window for you.

Although you are heedless of it now, God will make it clear (to
you in) the time of need.4

The Prophet said,5 "God Most Glorious created a remedy for
every pain."

685 But you won't find the color or sent of that remedy for your
pain without His command.

O remedy-seeker, hurry up (and) set your eyes on
non-existence,6 like the eyes of someone killed7 (which are
turned) toward the spirit.

This world has become visible by means of the Directionless, since
world was placed (here) by the Placeless.8

Turn back from existence (and go) toward non-existence, (if) you
are a seeker of the Lord and pious and godly.9

This non-existence10 is the place of income, (so) don't flee in
fear of it. (But) this existence of "more and less" is the place of

690 Since non-existence is the workplace for the action of God,
who is there in the world of existence except (those who are)

O Most Kind Friend! Teach us precise and subtle and words--
those which may bring Your Mercy.

The prayer (is) from You, as well as the answer. (And) protection
(is) from You, as well as awe.

If we spoke wrongly,12 You correct it, (for) you are the
Corrector, O King of speech!

You possess the alchemy, (by) which You may transform it. Even
if it is a river of blood, You may make it a (pure) Nile.13

695 Alchemies such as this are Your work, and elixirs14 such as
these are Your secrets.

You beat water and earth together, (and) from water and clay You
made the bodily form of Adam.15

You gave him lineage and marriage16 and maternal and paternal
uncles, together with a thousand worries, joys, and sorrows.

(Once) again, You have given liberation to some,17 (whom) you
have granted separation from these sorrows and joys.

You have take (that one away) from temperament, relatives, and
family connections (and) You have made every good thing (in the
world) ugly in his eyes.

700 He rejects everything perceptible to the senses, and he makes
that which is not visible (to be his) support.

(Then) his love is visible and his Beloved is hidden; the Friend (is)
beyond, (but) the His afflictions18 (upon the lovers are) in the

Abandon these19 loves for an image. [Real love) isn't for the
form or face of the lady.

That which is the (real) beloved is not the form, whether (it is) love
for (something in) this world or the (next) world.20

(And as for) that which you have become the lover for (its) form,
why did you let go of it when its soul went beyond?

705 Its form is (still) in place, (so) what is this weary disgust
about? O lover, search for who your beloved (really) is.

If the beloved is that which is perceptible to the senses, (then)
whoever has perception would be a lover (of that beloved).21

Since that love (which is real) increases faithful devotion, the
(change of) form never changes faithfulness.22

The sun's rays were shining on the wall, (but) the wall obtained
(only) a borrowed radiance.23

O simpleton! Why do you bind (your) heart to a clod of earth?
Seek back the source which is shining continually.

710 O you who are both the lover of your intellect (and also)
seeing yourself (as) greater (in regard) to form-worshippers,

It24 is a ray of the (Universal) Intellect (shining) upon your
perception and senses. Know (that) it is (something) borrowed,
(like) gold upon your copper.25

Beauty in humans is like gold coating. Otherwise, how did your
beloved become a worn out old donkey?

She was (like) an angel, (but) she became (ugly) like a demon.
Because that beauty and excellence in her was (something)

Bit by bit, that beauty is taken.26 (And) by degrees, the young
plant becomes dried-up.

715 Go (and) recite (the verse), "(If) We grant him long life, We
reverse him."27 (So) seek the heart, (and) don't set (your) heart on
(worthless) bones.

For the beauty of the heart is the enduring beauty; its (good)
fortune is the cupbearer28 of the Water of (Eternal) Life.29

It is both the liquid, the cupbearer, and the drunkard.30 All three
will have become one when your talisman (is) shattered.31

You can't know that Oneness by means of analogy and reasoning.
O ignorant man, don't talk nonsense, (but) worship and serve

Meaning and significance for you32 is (what has) form and (is)
borrowed.33 You are happy with (outward) proportion and

720 (But real) meaning and significance is that which seizes35 you
and makes you become without need of form.

(Real) meaning and significance is not that which makes
(someone) blind and deaf, (or which) makes a man more a lover of

722 The blind man's portion is sorrow-increasing thoughts. (But)
the portion for the (perceiving) eye's is thoughts about passing
away (from forms).36

--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" (, 8/20/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (679) the hearing: Just prior to this line is the story of the greedy
pauper who was imprisoned because he deliberately incurred debts
he was too lazy to pay back. But he ate so much of the other
prisoners' food that they complained bitterly to the judge and asked
his help. The judge ordered that the pauper be taken all around the
city together with drummers and criers to announce that no one
should sell anything to the man on credit or lend him any money,
because the judge would not put him in prison again. To carry out
the judge's order, an officer seized the camel of a Kurdish wood
seller, put the pauper on the camel, and led an entourage which
made the proclamation throughout the city. The owner of the
camel, whose protests were ignored, ran behind. At the end of the
day, the pauper climbed down from the camel and the owner
demanded that he pay him for the use of his camel. The pauper
said (as translated by Nicholson): "'Why then,' he rejoined, 'have
we been going round (the city) until now? Where are your wits? Is
nobody at home? The (sound of the) drum (giving notice) of my
insolvency [= indebtedness] reached the Seventh Heaven, and you
have not heard the bad news! You ear has been filled with foolish
hope; (such) hope, then, makes (one) deaf (and) blind, my lad.'"

2. (679) The seal of God is upon the hearing and sight: "Have you
considered the one who takes his own vain desire as his deity? And
God has (thereby) led him astray, knowing (him as such), and has
sealed his hearing and his heart and put a veil over his sight. Who,
then, will guide him after God (has withdrawn His guidance)?"
(Qur'an 45:23) The preceding story about the foolish Kurd can be
seen as an illustration of this verse. Another related verse is, "Say:
'Have you considered that if God took away your hearing and your
sight and sealed your hearts, is there a deity other than God who
could bring it back to you?'" (Qur'an 6:46) Nicholson explained,
"People like the Kurd are blinded by cupidity [= greed] and
self-interest: they perceive only the phenomenal forms by which
Reality is veiled." (Commentary)

3. (681) (mystical) concerts [samâ`]: Nicholson did not bring out the
full meaning here in his translation ("of music"). This is a technical
sufi term which means ecstatic listening, chanting, singing,
moving, and sometimes dancing and whirling as a result of
listening to mystical music and poetry. Sometimes the dervishes
would become so spiritually moved that they would shout their
feelings of ecstatic joy or longing sorrow for God.

4. (683) the time of need: "The cure for all the pains of the present
life is the revelation of Beauty and Love which God bestows on
those who in their distress turn to Him with heartfelt longing and
humble prayer." (Nicholson, Commentary)

5. (684 The Prophet said: A translation of the Hadíth [= traditional
saying of the Prophet Muhammad]: inna 'lláha khalaqa li-kulli
dá'in dawá'an" [= Truly, God has created a remedy for every
illness] (Nicholson, Commentary)

6. (686) on non-existence: Nicholson translated, "on non-spatiality"
and added a footnote-- "I.e. the Divine consciousness which
transcends space."

7. (686) like the eyes of someone killed: Nicholson later corrected his
translation to, "like the eye of one who is killed" (from, "as the eye
of one (about to be) killed"). He explained, "At the moment of
death the eye follows the flight of the departing spirit. Cf. the
Hadíth: inna 'l-rúha idhá qubida tabi`ahu 'l-basar." [= When the
spirit is seized, the eyes follow it] (Commentary)

8 (687) the Placeless: Nicholson translated, "This (spatial) world has
been produced from that which is without spatial relations, for the
world has received (the relation of) place from placelessness."

9. (688) pious and godly [rabbânî]: Nicholson translated, "and belong
to the Lord." Nicholson translated "al-rabbâniyîn" as "the godly" in
Book I, Preface, which he explained as meaning, "the men of
God." (Commentary)

10. (689) This non-existence: "'Non-existence' (`adam), i.e. the
immaterial world in which the essence of things (a`yán-i thábitah)
exist as ideas in the Divine Mind, is a 'place of income' in the sense
that the Súfí who has risen to this plane of mystical experience
through the passing-away of his contingent existence (faná-yi
hasti-yi imkání) is endowed with real being and everlasting
spiritual life (cf. V 1019 sqq., VI 1360 sqq.). On the contrary, the
world of 'more and less' (i.e. contingency and change) is a 'place of
expenditure', i.e. loss of reality and dissipation of spiritual goods."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

11. (690) except (those who are) useless: Nicholson later corrected his
translation, based on the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawi, to
"in the world of (phenomenal) existence, who is (to be found)
except the idle?" (from, "outside of the workshop there is (only)
worthlessness"). And he explained: "Since God, working in the
unseen factory of 'non-existence', is the only real Agent in the
universe, it follows that all existence and action other than His is
devoid of reality and value. In the second hemistich G [= the
"Konya," or earliest manuscript] and most MSS. have the reading
of... 'Who is there in the world of material existence that is not
(really) idle?'" (Commentary)

12. (693) If we spoke wrongly: "Probably the poet is referring to his
discourse on 'non-existence', which might be misunderstood and
used as an argument for necessitarianism (jabr)." (Nicholson,

13. (694) a (pure) Nile: refers to one of the plagues sent by God to
Egypt (mentioned in Qur'an 7:130), the plague of blood. Nicholson
commented: "Conversely, God made the Nile a river of blood for
the people of Pharaoh. According as He wills, error becomes truth
or truth error." (Commentary) Rumi has a story (beginning at IV:
3430) which tells how, when the Israelites drank from the Nile, it
was pure water, but for the Egyptians it was blood. Rumi also
refers to it (in Book I, Preface, translated by Nicholson) in another
place (as an analogy about the Mathnawi): "... and like the Nile of
Egypt it is a (pleasant) drink to them that endure patiently, but a
grief to the people of Pharaoh and the unbelievers..."

14. (695) elixirs: refers to the transforming agent ("al-iksîr," in Arabic,
from the Greek word "kseros") of the science of alchemy ("al-
kîmiyâ," in Arabic), also known as the "philosopher's stone." This
is the secret science that supposedly was able to transmute "base
metals" such as lead into gold and silver. Rumi uses the terms of
alchemy to symbolize spiritual transformation.

15. (696) bodily form of Adam: "And He is the one who created man
from water" (Qur'an 25:54). "When your Lord said to the angels,
'Truly, I am going to create a human being from clay. And when I
have formed him completely and breathed into him of My spirit..."

16. (697) You gave him lineage and marriage: "And He is the one who
created man from water. Then He made for him relationships of
lineage [nasab-an] and marriage..." (Qur'an 25:54).

17. (698) some: "i.e. mystics who have died to self." (Nicholson,

18. (701) afflictions [fitna]: means the trials, discord, disturbances,
disruptions which the lover must suffer in his yearning passion for
union with the beloved-- here, meaning God.

19. (702) Abandon these: Nicholson read this line differently and
translated, "Give up this (belief). Loves (felt) for what is endued
with form have not as their object the (outward) form or the lady's
face." Regarding his parenthetic explanation of "belief," he added
in a footnote: "I.e. the belief in phenomena." And he further
explained: "The preceding words (fitna-i ú dar jahán) [= "His
fascination is in the world"] might seem to imply that phenomenal
form (súrat) can be an object of love. Hence the poet says, 'Dismiss
this idea from your mind', and in the following passage explains
that the real object of all love is spiritual." (Commentary)

20. (703) this world or the (next) world: means that the real beloved
(God) is beyond any attractive form in this world or in Paradise.

21. (706) would be a lover (of that beloved): Nicholson later corrected
his translation of this line, to "... would be in love (with her)"
(from, "would be in love (with it)." And he explained: "I.e. 'if a
woman's appearance were the true source of attraction, every one
who saw her would be attracted in the same way'." (Commentary)

22. (707) the faithfulness: Nicholson later improved his translation to,
"Inasmuch as constancy is increased by love, who is it that the
form (the supposed object of love) alters constancy (into
inconstancy)?" (from, "... is increased by that (spiritual) love, how
is constancy altered (impaired) by the (decay of the material)
form?"). And he explained: "The poet has demonstrated that if the
object of lover were the sensible form, the mere fact of the spirit's
leaving the body at the moment of death would make no difference
to the lover, because (as he now adds) the fruit of love is
constancy. Why, then, do lovers change as soon as life departs
from the form which they loved? The reason must be that they
loved something besides the form itself.... The point is that love
remains faithful to its object: constancy is inseparable from love.
Therefore, on the hypothesis that the 'form' is the object of love
and does not disappear when the spirit flies away, its lover must
continue to be in love with it. Since this conclusion is notoriously
untrue, the premise on which it is based falls to the ground." (Commentary)

23. (708) a borrowed radiance: "Human (and all phenomenal) beauty
is a reflexion of the Divine (Jamál) [= Beauty]." (Nicholson,

24. (711) it: means your individual intellect, which is a particular
manifestation of the Universal Intellect.

25. (711) gold upon your copper: means that your individual ability to
think and reason appears "brighter" to you because of a quality
which you have "borrowed" for a limited time-- but it is not your

26. (714) that beauty is taken: Nicholson later corrected his translation,
based on the earliest manuscript, to "they take away that beauty"
(from, "He (God) takes away that beauty").

27. (715) We reverse him: "And if We grant him long life, We reverse
him in nature. Won't they understand?" (Qur'an 36:68) Means that
if God grants long life to someone, that person will eventually
decline and become as weak and helpless as a small child.

28. (716) its (good) fortune is the cupbearer: Nicholson later corrected
his translation, based on the earliest manuscript, to "its fortune
gives to drink..." (from, "its lips give to drink...") The cupbearer
[saqî], literally, "water-carrier," is a frequent term in Persian
literature. It means the dispenser of pure water, or wine-- which are
symbols of spiritual blessings in sufi poetry.

29. (716) the Water of (Everlasting) Life: the legendary Fountain of
Eternal Youth. Whoever found this fountain and drank from it was
said to have become immortal. It is a frequent metaphor in Rumi's

30. (717) the liquid, the cupbearer, and the drunkard: Nicholson
translated, "Truly it is both the water and the giver of drink and the
drunken..." He explained: "Cf. Báyazíd's saying: 'I am the wine-
drinker and the wine and the cup-bearer', and 'I came forth from
Báyazíd-ness (individuality) as a snake from its skin. Then I
looked and saw that lover, beloved, and lover are one, for in the
world of Unity all can be one'. Mystical experience transcends the
logical distinctions of subject, object, and attribute." (Commentary)

31. (717) when your talisman (is) shattered: "i.e. 'when your illusion of
individuality is destroyed'." (Nicholson, Commentary) Talismans
were pieces of clay with magical inscriptions written on them.
They were placed in the vicinity of treasures as a magical
protection. For Rumi, the talisman symbolizes the body, which
when "destroyed" reveals the spiritual treasure of the spirit.
Similarly, he said that treasures are hidden in ruins, so one should
destroy the ruin of the body (meaning when the power of bodily
and egoistic desires is broken) in order to find the treasure.

32. (719) Meaning and significance [ma`nî/ma`nà]: What is the inward
meaning and reality, in contrast to the shell or appearance. For
Rumi, this is spiritual reality, in contrast to the outward and
"borrowed" qualities in the physical world. Nicholson translated,
"Your reality..." He explained: "i.e. 'what you deem to be reality'."

33. (719) borrowed: means temporary qualities, such as youthful

34. (719) (outward) proportion and rhyme: Nicholson translated, "... in
what is relative and (secondary like) rhyme."

35. (720) seizes: Nicholson translated, "that which seizes (enraptures)

36. (722) passing away (from forms): Nicholson translated, "the share
of the (spiritual) eye is these fancies (ideas) of dying to self
(faná)." The word "fanâ" is a technical sufi term which means
"passing away" from, or "annihilation" of, ego's self-centered
preoccupations with itself and worldly cravings, dreads, and


679 hast bar sam`-o baSar mohr-é khodâ
dar Hujub bas Sûrat-ast-o bas Sadâ

680 ân-che ô khwâh-ad, rasân-ad ân ba-chashm
az jamâl-o az kamâl-o az karashm

w-ân-che ô khwâh-ad, rasân-ad ân ba-gôsh
az samâ`-o az bashârat w-az khorôsh

kawn por châra-st, hêch-at châra nê
tâ ke na-g'shây-ad khodây-at rôzanê

gar-che tô hast-î kanûn ghâfil az ân
waqt-é Hâjat Haq kon-ad ân-râ `ayân

goft payghâmbar ke yazdân-é majîd
az pay-é har dard darmân âfarîd

685 lêk z-ân darmân na-bîn-î rang-o bô
bahr-é dard-é khwêsh bê-farmân-é ô

chashm-râ ay châra-jô dar lâ-makân
hîn be-neh, chûn chashm-é kushta sôy-é jân

în jahân az bê-jehat paydâ shod-ast
ke ze-bê-jâyî jahân-râ jâ shod-ast

bâz gard az hast sôy-é nêstî
Tâlib-é rabb-î-wo rabbânî-st-î

jây-é dakhl-ast în `adam az way ma-ram
jây-é kharj-ast în wujûd-é pêsh-o kam

690 kârgâh-e Sun`-é Haq chûn nêstî-st
joz mu`aTTal dar jahân-é hast kî-st?

yâd deh mâ-râ sokhon-hây-é daqîq
ke to-râ raHm âwar-ad ân ay rafîq

ham du`â az tô, ijâbat ham ze-tô
îmanî az tô, mahâbat ham ze-tô

gar khaTâ goft-êm, aSlâH-ash tô kon
muSliH-î tô, ay tô sulTân-é sokhon

kîmiyâ dâr-î ke tabdîl-ash kon-î
gar-che jôy-é khûn bow-ad, nîl-ash kon-î

695 în chon-în mînâgarî-hâ kâr-é to-st
în chon-în aksîr-hâ asrâr-é to-st

âb-râ-wa khâk-râ bar-ham zad-î
z-âb-o gel naqsh-é tan-é âdam zad-î

nisbat-ash dâd-î-wo joft-o khâl-o `âm
bâ hazâr andêsha-wo shâdî-wo gham

bâz ba`Zê-râ rahâ'yî dâda-î
z-în gham-o shâdî jodâ'yî dâda-î

borda-î az khwêsh-o paywand-o seresht
karda-î dar chashm-é ô har khwob zesht

700 har che maHsûs-ast, ô rad mê-kon-ad
w-ân-che nâ-paydâ-st, masnad mê-kon-ad

`ishq-é ô paydâ-wo ma`shûq-ash nehân
yâr bîrûn, fitna-yé ô dar jahân

în rahâ kon `ishq-hây-é Sûratê
nêst bar S½rat na bar rôy-é sitî

ân-che ma`shûq-ast, Sûrat nêst ân
khwâh `ishq-é în jahân, khwâh ân jahân

ân-che bar Sûrat tô `âshiq gashta-î
chûn berûn shod jân, che-rây-ash heshta-î?

705 Sûrat-ash bar jâ-st, în sêrî ze-chîst
`âshiq-â wâ jô ke ma`shûq-é tô kî-st?

ân-che maHsûs-ast, agar ma`shûqa-ast
`âshiq-asty har ke ô-râ Hiss hast

chûn wafâ ân `ishq afzûn mê-kon-ad
kay wafâ Sûrat degar-gûn mê-kon-ad?

partaw-é khworshêd bar dêwâr tâft
tâbesh-é `ârîyatî dêwâr yâft

bar kolûkhê del che band-î ay salîm?
wâ Talab aSlî ke tâb-ad ô muqîm

710 ay ke tô ham `âshiq-î bar `aql-é khwêsh
khwêsh bar Sûrat-parast-ân dîda bêsh

partaw-é `aql-ast ân bar Hiss-é tô
`âriyat mê-dân Zahab bar miss-é tô

chûn zar-andûd-ast khwobî dar bashar
w-ar-na chûn shod shâhid-é tô pîra khar?

chûn fereshta bûd, ham-chûn dêw shod
k-ân malâHat andar-ô `âriyya bod

andak andak mê-setân-and ân jamâl
andak andak khoshk mê-gard-ad nahâl

715 raw nu`ammir-hu nunakkis-hu be-khwân
del Talab kon, del ma-neh bar ostokhwân

k-ân jamâl-é del jamâl-é bâqiy-ast
dawlat-ash az âb-é Haywân sâqiy-ast

khwad ham ô âb-ast-o ham sâqî-wo mast
har seh yak shod, chûn Tilism-é tô shekast

ân yakî-râ tô na-dân-î az qiyâs
bandagî kon, ZâZ kam khâ, nâ-shenâs

ma`niy-é tô Surat-ast-o `âriyat
bar munâsib shâd-î-wo bar qâfiyat

720 ma`nî ân bâsh-ad ke be-s'tân-ad to-râ
bê-neyâz az naqsh gardân-ad to-râ

ma`nî ân na-b'w-ad ke kûr-o kar kon-ad
mard-râ bar naqsh `âshiq-tar kon-ad

722 kûr-râ qismat khayâl-é gham-fezâ-st
bahra-yé chashm în khayâlât-é fanâ-st

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)