In Order to Avoid Suffering

Mathnawi II: 2456-82

2456 When the Messenger1 paid a visit to (his) groaning friend, he
said to that sick man,

"Have you, perhaps, made a particular kind of prayer, and
(therefore) eaten a (kind of) 'poison' out of ignorance?2

"Remember what prayer you said when you were agitated by the
deceptions of (your) ego."3

He replied, "I have no memory (of it), but (please) hold an
intention for me [in your mind], and my memory will come in a

2460 (And) due to the presence of (that) light-giving Chosen One,4
the prayer came (back) to his mind.5

[himmat-é payghambar-é rôshan-kada
pêsh-é khâTir âmad-ash ân gom-shoda]

A light was shining through that 'window' which is between heart
and heart, (a light) which distinguishes (what is) true and false.

He said, "O Prophet, now my memory has returned (about) the
prayer which I said, (like) a meddling fool.

"When I was the captive of sin (and) drowning, I was grabbing at

2465 "A threat and warning was coming from you (about) severe
punishment for sinners.

"I was getting agitated, and there was no help; there were
strong chains (upon me) and an unbreakable lock.

"(There was) no place for patience and no way for escape; (there
was) no hope of repenting and no place for rebelling.

"I was crying from grief, like Haroot and Maroot,6 (and) I was
sighing: 'O my Creator!'"

Because of the danger (of Hell-fire ), Haroot and Maroot plainly
chose (imprisonment in) the well of Babylon,

2470 So that they might draw the punishment of the Afterlife here
(in this life). (Certainly,) they are intelligent, wise, and magician-

They did well (to choose that) and it was proper, (for) the
suffering from smoke is easier (to bear) than from fire.

The description of the suffering of that world (in Hell) is endless,
(and) the suffering of this world is easy in comparison to it.

How fortunate (is) the one who engages in a struggle7 (against ego
and) hinders and deals justice to (the passions of) the body;

In order that he may escape from the suffering of that world, he
places upon himself the pain of devoted service (to God) [rather
than his own desires].

2475 "I kept saying, 'O Lord, direct that punishment upon me
quickly in this world,

"'So that I may be at ease in that world!' I was banging the
door-ring (against the gate of Divine Mercy) with a wish like this.

"(Then) an affliction like this (then) appeared in me, and my (very)
soul became restless from (all) the suffering.

"I have quit doing my zikr8 and my (other) devotions;9 I have
become unaware of myself and (of) good and bad.

"If I had not now seen your face-- (and) how fortunate and blessed
(is) your (holy) scent!--

2480 "I would have departed (this life of) bondage at once. (But) you
have acted toward me (in) this kingly and sympathetic way!"

(The Prophet) said, "Hey! Don't say this prayer again! Don't
dig up yourself from the roots and foundation!

2482 "O weak and gloomy ant! What strength do you have, that He
should put such a huge mountain (of suffering) upon you (to

--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" (, 7/8/99

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (2456) the Messenger: the Prophet Muhammad (peace and
blessings be upon him).

2. (2457) eaten a poison out of ignorance: "i.e. 'you have spoken
foolishly and irreverently and are now suffering in consequence'"
(Nicholson, Commentary)

3. (2458) ego [nafs]: means the ordinary passion-directed self-
obsessed mind, often deceived in its pursuit of worldly cravings.

4. (2460) Chosen One (MuSTafà): a frequently used title of the

5. (2460) to his mind: Following this line, Nicholson includes a
(repetitious) line which is absent in the earliest manuscript and
which Nicholson translated: "(From) the aspiration of the Prophet
who dwells in light there came into his mind that which had been

6. (2468) Haroot and Maroot (Hârût, Mârût): two fallen angels
mentioned in the Qur'an (2:102) as teachers of magic in Babylon.
According to Islamic legend, they sinned by having sexual
relations with women and by teaching magic to mankind. They
chose the punishment of being hung upside-down in a deep well,
or pit, to avoid punishment on the Day of Judgment.

7. (2473) a struggle [jihâd]: This word, often translated by the
Christian term, "Holy War," literally means "struggle," and
includes any kind of struggle against injustice and oppression, for
the sake of God. The reference here is to a saying attributed to the
Prophet: "We have returned from the Lesser Warfare [al-jihâdu
'l-aSghar] to the Greater Warfare [al-jihâdu 'l-akbar]... opposing the
ego [mukhâlifatu 'l-nafs]."

8. (2478) zikr: refers to the Islamic sufi practice of remembering and
glorifying God by chanting (silently or out loud) Divine Names
and phrases derived from the Qur'an.

9. (2478) devotions [awrâd]: means assigned daily spiritual practices,
such as repeating certain Divine Names a set number of times or
reading special selections of verses from the Qur'an.


2456 goft payghâmbar mar ân bîmâr-râ
chûn `iyâdat kard yâr-é zâr-râ

ke magar naw`î du`âyê karda-î
az jahâlat zahrbâyê khwarda-î

yâd âwar che du`â mê-gofta-î
chûn ze-makr-é nafs mê-âshofta-î?

goft yâd-am nêst, illâ himmatê
dâr bâ man, yâd-am ây-ad sâ`atê

2460 az HuZûr-é nûr-bakhsh-é muStafà
pêsh-é khâTir âm-ad ô-râ ân du`â

[himmat-é payghambar-é rôshan-kada
pêsh-é khâTir âmad-ash ân gom-shoda]

tâft z-ân rôzan ke az del tâ del-ast
rôshanê ke farq-é Haqq-o bâTil-ast

goft înke yâd-am âm-ad ay rasûl
ân du`â ke gofta-am man bu 'l-faZûl

chûn gereftâr-é gonah mê-âmad-am
gharqa dast andar Hashâyish mê-zad-am

2465 az tô tahdîd-o wa`îdê mê-rasîd
mujram-ân-râ az `aZâb-é bas shadîd

muZTarib mê-gasht-am-o châra na-bûd
band-é muHkam bûd-o qafl-é nâ-goshûd

nay maqâm-é Sabr-o nay râh-é gorêz
nay omîd-é tawba, nay jây-é setêz

man chô hârût-o chô mârût az Hazan
âh mê-kard-am ke ay khallâq-é man

az khâTar hârût-o mârût âshkâr
châh-é bâbil-râ be-kard-and ikhtiyâr

2470 tâ `aZâb-é âkhirat în-jâ kash-and
gorboz-and-o `âqil-io sâHir wash-and

nêk kard-and-o ba-jây-é khwêsh bûd
sahl-tar bâsh-ad ze-âtash ranj-é dûd

Had na-dâr-ad waSf-é ranj-é ân jahân
sahl bâsh-ad ranj-é dunyâ pêsh-é ân

ay khonok ân k-ô jihâdî mê-kon-ad
bar badan zajrî-wo dâdê mê-kon-ad

tâ ze-ranj-é ân jahânê wâ rah-ad
bar khwad în ranj-é `ibâdat mê-neh-ad

2475 man hamê-goft-am ke yâ rab ân `aZâb
ham dar-în `âlam be-rân bar man shetâb

tâ dar ân `âlam farâghat bâsh-ad-am
dar chon-în dar khwâst Halqa mê-zad-am

în chon-în ranjûriyê payda-m shod
jân-é man az ranj bê-ârâm shod

mânda-am az Zir-o az awrâd-é khwad
bê-khabar gasht-am ze-khwês-o nêk-o bad

gar na-mê-dîd-am kanûn man rôy-é tô
ay khajasta, way mubârak bôy-é tô

2480 mê-shod-am az band man yakbâragî
karda-y-am shâhâna în ghamkhwâragî

goft hay hay în du`â dêgar ma-kon
bar ma-kan tô khwêsh-râ az bêkh-o bon

2482 tô che Tâqat dâr-î ay môr-é nezhand
ke neh-ad bar tô chonj-ân kûh-é boland?

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)