That Which Is Invisible Is So Strong and Uncontrollable

Mathnawi II: 1278-1309

1278 Praise be to God! -- that the rope1 is hanging down (for you,
O Joseph, and that Divine) favor and mercy are wound together!

So that you may see the (ever) new world of the spirit,2 a fully
manifest (yet) invisible world.

1280 [For most people] this non-existent world has become like
(true) existence, and that (truly) existent world has become fully

It is (like) dust on the wind, and it is playing: (it is) a
displayer of distortions and is creating a veil [over reality].

This (world), which is active (in appearance), is inactive and a
(mere) shell, while that (world) which is hidden is its kernel and

The dust (is) like a tool in the hands of the wind; know that the
wind is lofty and of superior lineage.

The glance of the earthy eye falls upon the dust, but the
wind-seeing eye is a different kind.

1285 The horse knows (another) horse because it is (a) friend [in
form]; similarly, a rider knows the conditions of (being) a rider.

The eye of (physical) sensation is the horse and the Light of God is
the rider; a riderless horse is of no use.3

So train the horse (to change) from (its) bad habits,4 or else the
horse will be rejected in the King's presence.

The horse's eye is guided by the King's eye; its eye is helpless and
desperate without the King's eye.

The eye of horses will say, "No! Why (should I)?" wherever you
call (it to look), except (to) grass5 and grazing.

1290 (But) when the Light of God becomes the rider on the eye of
sensation, then the soul becomes desirous to (reach) God.

What does the riderless horse know (about) the signs of the road?
The King6 is needed, so that it may know the King's highway.

Go7 to a (physical) sense (upon which) God is the rider, (because)
that Light is a good companion for the sense.

The Light of God is a beautiful ornament for the light of sense.8
This is the meaning of (the verse) "Light upon light."9

The light of sense pulls (man) toward the ground, (but) the Light of
God takes him toward the height (of the heavens).

1295 Because perceptible things are (from) a more inferior world.
The Light of God (is like) the sea and the sense is like the dew.

But the rider upon it is not visible,10 except by good actions and

The light of sensation, which is thick and heavy is concealed in the
black of the eyes.11

Since you do not see the light of sensation with (your) eye, how
can you see the light of the religious (saint) with (your) eye?

(Since) the light of sensation is hidden, despite (its) thickness,
why should a light which is (so) pure not (also) be hidden?

1300 This world (is) like straw in the hands of the invisible wind;
(it) has taken helplessness as (its) profession. And invisible Justice

Sometimes makes it high, sometimes low; sometimes makes it
complete, sometimes broken.

Sometimes it takes it to the right, sometimes (to) the left;
sometimes it makes it a rose garden, sometimes a thorn.

See (how) the pen is writing (while) the hand (is) hidden [from the
paper]; (see how) the horse is turning suddenly while the rider is
not seen [because of the dust].

See (how) the arrow (is) flying, (while) the bow (is) not visible;
(see how) souls (are) evident12 while the Soul of the soul is hidden.

1305 Don't break the arrow13 [of affliction], since it is a King's
arrow. It is not [intended as] a long shot; it is from the bow notch
of an Aware One.

"You did not throw when you threw,"14 said God. An act of God
has priority over (our) actions.

Break your anger, don't break the arrow, (for) the eye of your anger
considers milk (to be) blood.

(Instead) kiss the arrow and take (it) to the King's presence-- the
blood-stained arrow (which is) wet from your blood.

1309 That which (is) visible is helpless, bound, and weak. But that
which (is) invisible (is) so strong and uncontrollable!

--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" (, 6/24/99

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (1278) the rope: refers to the story of how Joseph was thrown into
a well
by his brothers and later rescued by travelers who let down a rope
and bucket (Qur'an 12:19).

2. (1279) the new world of the spirit: "the new (ever fresh and
incorruptible) spiritual world" (Nicholson, Commentary)

3. (1286) of no use: "The sensuous eye perceives the things of sense
but is blind to 'the light of God', which resides in the oculus cordis
[eye of the heart]; unless it be directed by the 'inner light', it goes
astray like a horse without its rider" (Nicholson, Commentary)

4. (1287) bad habits: "Here the 'horse' is the carnal soul" (Nicholson,

5. (1289) grass: "The sensible world is often described as a verdant
meadow" (Nicholson, Commentary)

6. (1291) the King: means God, and/or-- "i.e. the Perfect Man
[spiritually completed sufi master], who is a spiritual king"
(Nicholson, Commentary)

7. (1292) Go: "i.e. 'go to a murshid [sufi guide]; for in him every
sense is illumined and every faculty controlled by light from God'"
(Nicholson, Commentary)

8. (1293) the light of sense: refers to the ancient Greek belief of
Galen and others that the eye sees (and the other senses sense) by
means of an inner light which is beamed toward the object sensed.

9. (1293) Light upon light: Qur'an 24:35. "Hence the Light of God in
successive diffusion sheds beauty and purity on the lowest as well
as the highest faculties of the human soul which it transforms; and
this is the meaning of 'light upon light'" (Nicholson, Commentary)

10. (1296) the rider is not visible: ""The spirit's bodily vesture is
likened to a cloud of dust which surrounds and conceals the
galloping rider" (Nicholson, Commentary)

11. (1297) the black of the eyes: "The 'sensible light', though
ultimately derived from the Light of God, dwells in the eye, from
which it shoots forth in order to meet the sunlight. Physical vision
is produced [according to the ancient theory] by the emission of
these rays" (Nicholson, Commentary)

12. (1304) see how souls are evident: "i.e. in respect of the qualities
which they exhibit and the actions which proceed from them"
(Nicholson, Commentary)

13. (1305) Don't break the arrow: "The blows of tribulation should be
welcomed as marks of Divine mercy and love" (Nicholson,

14. (1306) when you threw: "You did not throw when you threw, but it
was God who threw" (Qur'an 8:17). "At the battle of Badr the
Prophet threw a handful of gravel in the faces of the Quraysh
[polytheists], who immediately fled before the Moslem onset. The
Qur'an declares that the gravel was really thrown by God, 'that He
might give the true believers a good proof of His favor'. Here the
text is applied generally as an illustration of the doctrine that God
is the source of all action in the universe" (Nicholson,


Hamdu li-llâh k-în rasan âwêkht-and
faZl-o raHmat-râ ba-ham âmêkht-and

tâ be-bîn-î `âlam-é jân-é jadîd
`âlam-é bas âshkâr-é nâ-padîd

în jahân-é nêst chûn hastân shoda
w-ân jahân-é hast bas penhân shoda

khâk bar bâd-ast-o bâzî mê-kon-ad
kazh-nomâyê, parda-sâzî mê-kon-ad

în-ke bar kâr-ast, bê-kâr-ast-o pôst
w-ân-ke penhân-ast maghz-o aSl-é ô-st

khâk ham-chûn âlatê dar dast-é bâd
bâd-râ dân `âlî-wo `âlî-nezhâd

chashm-é khâkî-râ ba-khâk oftad naZar
bâd-bîn chashmê bow-ad naw`ê degar

asp dân-ad asp-râ k-ô hast yâr
ham sowârê dân-ad aHwâl-é sowâr

chashm-é His asp-ast-o nûr-é Haq sowâr
bê-sowâra asp khwad n-ây-ad ba-kâr

pas adab kon asp-râ az khôy-é bad
w-ar-na pêsh-é shâh bâsh-ad asp rad

chasm-é asp az chashm-é shah rah-bar bow-ad
chasm-é ô bê-chashm-é shah MuZTar bow-ad

chashm-é asp-ân joz geyâh-o joz charâ
har kojâ khwân-î be-gôy-ad nay cherâ?

nûr-é Haq bar nûr-é His râkib shaw-ad
ân-gahê jân sôy-é Haq râghib shaw-ad

asp bê-râkib che dân-ad rasm-é râh?
shâh bây-ad tâ be-dân-ad shâh-râh

sôy-é Hissê raw ke nûr-ash râkib-ast
His-râ ân nûr nêkô-SâHib-ast

nûr-é His-râ nûr-é Haq tazyîn bow-ad
ma`nî-yé nûr-un `alà nûr în bow-ad

nûr-é Hissî mê-kash-ad sôy-é Sarà
nûr-é Haqq-ash mê-bar-ad sôy-é `ulà

z-ân-ke maHsûs-ât dûn-tar `âlamê-st
nûr-é Haq daryâ-wo His chûn shab-namê-st

lêk paydâ nêst ân râkib bar-ô
joz be-âtSâr-o ba-goftâr-é nekô

nûr-é Hissî k-ô ghalîZ-ast-o gerân
hast penhân dar suwâd-é dîda-gân

chûn-ke nûr-é His na-mê-bîn-î ze-chashm
chûn be-bîn-î nûr-é ân dînî ze-chashm?

nûr-é His bân în ghalîZî mukhtafî-st
chûn khafî na-b'w-ad Ziyâyê k-ân Safî-st?

în jahân chûn khas ba-dast-é bâd-é ghayb
`âjizî pêsha gereft-o dâd-é ghayb

gah boland-ash mê-kon-ad gâhê-sh past
gah dorost-ash mê-kon-ad gâhê shekast

gah yamîn-ash mê-bar-ad gâhê yasâr
gah golestân-ash kon-ad gâhê-sh khâr

dast penhân-ô qalam bîn khaT gozâr
asp dar jawlân-o nâ-paydâ sowâr

tîr parrân bîn-o nâ-paydâ kamân
jân-hâ paydâ-wo penhân jân-é jân

tîr-râ ma-sh'kan ke în tîr-é shahê-st
nêst partâwê ze-shaSt-é âghahê-st

mâ ramayta idh ramayta goft Haq
kâra-é Haq bar kâr-hâ dâr-ad sabaq

khashm-é khwad be-sh'kan tô, ma-sh'kan tîr-râ
chashm-é khashm-at khûn shomâr-ad shîr-râ

bôsa deh bar tîr-o pêsh-é shâh bar
tîr-é khûn-âlûd az khûn-é tô tar

ân-che paydâ `âjiz-o basta-wo zabûn
w-ân-che nâ-paydâ chon-ân tond-o Harûn

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)