What Is The Most Difficult?

Mathnawi IV: 113-119

(Concerning) the questioning of Jesus, may the peace (of God)
be upon him: Of all difficulties in existence, what is the most

113 A cautious-minded person asked Jesus, "What is the most
difficult of all in existence?"

He answered, "O dear one, the anger of God (is) the most
difficult, since (even) Hell continues to tremble because of it, just
as we (do).

115 (The man) asked, "What protection is there from this anger of
God?" (Jesus) answered, "Abandoning your anger during the
moment (it occurs)."

Therefore, since the policeman1 has become the mine of this
anger, his ugly anger has passed beyond even (that of) a fierce

What hope does he have for (Divine) mercy, unless that ignorant
man repents3 of that (ugly) quality.

Although the world is helpless without them,4 these words are a
(way of) throwing (them) into confusion and error.5

119 The world also cannot be without excrement, but excrement is
(certainly) not "clear-flowing water."6

--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 1930 British translation)
Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (yahoogroups.com), 6/16/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (116) policeman: Refers to a story about a policeman, just prior to
this section, in which a lover, who was searching for his beloved
for seven years, fled from the night-patrol officers by climbing
over a wall, and found himself alone in a garden with his beloved.
Rumi then says, "...Though it is the nature of that policeman, O
God, that he always desires the people to be afflicted.... He (the
policeman) was poison to all (others), but to him (he was) the
antidote: the policeman was the means of uniting that longing lover
(with the object of his desire). Hence there is no absolute evil in
the world: evil is relative. Know this (truth) also.... This policeman
became a (source of) profit in respect of another, but he became
reprobate in respect of himself. The mercy appertaining to the
Faith was cut off from him; the hate inherent in the Devil enfolded
him. He became a factory of anger and hatred: know that hate is
the root of error and infidelity." (Mathnawi IV: 59, 64-65, 110-
112, translated by Nicholson).

"`Awán or 'assistant' was a name given to any member of the
government police force (shurtab or ma`únah), which acted under
the orders of a special officer.... Among them were many reformed
criminals, and they had a reputation for injustice, violence, and
brutality; `awán is commonly used as equivalent to zálim." [=
"oppressor"] (Nicholson, Commentary, p. 102)

2. (116) fierce animal [sabu`]: named this because beasts of prey
were generally believed to give birth seven months after mating.

3. (117) repents: literally, "turns back from." An idiom meaning
restraint and repentance.

4. (118) helpless without them: means without policemen.

5. (118) into confusion and error: Nicholson translated, "... this
statement is a (means of) casting (those who hear it) into error."
The meaning here is unclear, but seems to mean that, unless such
people repent, their furious anger will continue to throw them into
confusion and error-- thus making them the objects of Divine

6. (119) clear-flowing water: "Say: 'Can you see (that) if your stream
disappeared (underground) some morning, who (but God) could
give you clear-flowing water?'" (Qur'an 67:30) Such water also
symbolizes Divine blessings-- the opposite of God's anger.


sû'âl kardan az `îsà, `alay-hi 's-salâm, ke dar wujûd az hama-yé
Sa`b-hâ Sa`b-tar chîst?

113 goft `îsà-râ yakê hoshyâr-sar
chîst dar hastî ze-jomla Sa`b-tar?

goft-ash ay jân, Sa`b-tar khashm-é khodâ
ke az ân dôzakh hamê larz-ad chô mâ

115 goft az-în khashm-é khodâ che b'w-ad amân?
goft tark-é khashm-é khwêsh andar zamân

pas `awân ke ma`dan-é în khashm gasht
khashm-é zesht-ash az sabu` ham dar goZasht

che omêd-ast-ash ba-raHmat joz magar
bâz gard-ad z-ân Sifat ân bê-honar

gar-che `âlam-râ az-êshân châra nêst
în sokhon andar Zalâl afkandanê-st

119 châra na-b'w-ad ham jahân-râ az chamîn
lêk na-b'w-ad ân chamîn mâ 'i ma`în

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)