The Music of Paradise

Mathnawi IV: 731-744

731 However, his intention1 of (hearing) the shout of the viol2
was, as (in the case of) yearning (mystic lovers), the imagined
(voice) of the Speech (of God).3

(Since) the shrill cry of the reed-pipe and the threatening (sound)
of the drum are a bit similar to the (angelic) trumpet for the
(Resurrection)4 of all of (mankind).

Therefore, the wise (philosophers) have said (that) we have
received these melodies5 from the circling (movements) of the
heavenly spheres,

(And that) these (tunes) which people are singing with (their)
throats and lutes are the (same) sounds (made) by the revolutions
of the heavenly spheres.6

735 (But true) believers7 say that Heavenly influences caused any
ugly voice to become beautiful,8

(Because) all of us have been parts of Adam (and) we have (all)
heard those melodies (before) in Paradise.

Even though (our bodies made of) water and clay have cast some
doubt [about this truth] upon us, something of those (melodies)
comes (back) to our memories--

Yet because it is mixed with earthly sorrows, these shrill and deep
(tones) can never give the (same) joy.

When water is mixed with urine and dung,9 its composition
becomes bitter and harshly pungent (of smell) from the mixture.

740 (But if) there is a small amount of water in (a man's) body,
assume it (to be) urine-- it (can still) put out a fire.

(So) even though the water has become polluted it's (watery)
nature remains, for by (means of) its nature, it extinguishes the fire
of (burning) sorrow.

Therefore, the mystical concert10 has become the food and
nourishment of the lovers (of God), since the gathering of the
(entire) mind [focused on God] is in it.11

The mind's thoughts (then) obtain a certain strength [of
concentration] and, moreover, they become (mental) images12 from
(hearing) the cries and whistling [of the reed-flute].

744 By means of melodies, the fire of love becomes sharp and
intense-- just as in the case of the fire [of ecstasy] of the [man who
was a] scatterer of walnuts.13

--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" (, 4/27/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (731) his intention: refers to Ibrahim the son of Adham, the king of
Khorasan (in Central Asia), who abandoned his kingdom in order
to become a sufi. Here, Rumi wishes "to show that Ibráhím ibn
Adham, with all the kingdom of Balkh at his command, was
nevertheless an unworldly prince. Although, like other monarchs,
he had his body-guard and court-minstrels, no motive of self-
interest or self-indulgence could be imputed to him. His justice
secured him against attack; and if he was not insensible to the
pleasures of music, for him they were only a means of bringing the
spirit into harmony with its own proper world." (Nicholson,

2. (731) the viol [rabâb]: a Middle Eastern stringed musical
instrument with a long neck, played with a bow.

3. (731) the Speech (of God): Nicholson translated, "But his object in
(listening to) the sound of the rebeck was, like (that of) ardent
lovers (of God), (to bring into his mind) the phantasy of that
(Divine) allocution." Nicholson explained: "i.e., according to most
commentators, the proclamation of Divine omnipotence (a-lastu
bi-Rabbikum, Qur. VII 171) [= when God questioned the souls of
mankind prior to the creation, "Am I not your Lord?"-- Qur'an 7:
172] to which all human souls responded in eternity.... But the next
verse and vv. 839-843 infra [= "All the dead spirits took wing: the
dead put forth their heads from the grave, (which is) the body.
They gave the good news to one another, saying 'Hark! Lo, a voice
is coming from Heaven.' At (the sound of) that voice (men's)
religions wax great; the leaves and boughs of the heart become
green. Like the blast of the trumpet (on Judgment-Day) that breath
from Solomon delivered the dead from the tombs."-- trans. by
Nicholson] imply that khitáb [= speech, allocution] also refers to
the Voice of God (Kalám-i Haqq), heard in the mystic's heart, as
the trumpet of spiritual resurrection." This is the aim of listening to
the "audition," or mystical concert [samâ`], of the sufis-- to
imagine that one is hearing the Voice of God, the Only Beloved,
and to yearn to return to the soul's original homeland in the Divine
Presence. Sometimes, such mystical listening would induce a
spiritual state of consciousness which inspired the dervishes to
move, dance, or whirl.

4. (732) the (angelic) trumpet for the (Resurrection): usually
conceived as the trumpet sounded by the Isrâfîl, the Angel of
Death which announces the start of the Resurrection of the Dead
on the Day of Judgment. Nicholson, in his Commentary, refers to
related verses from the Mathnawi: "... like Isráfíl (Seraphiel)
whose voice will cunningly bring the souls of the dead into their
bodies.... One day Isráfíl will make a shrill sound and will give life
to him that has been rotten for a hundred years." (I: 1916, 1918;
translated by Nicholson) The meaning here is that pious sufis also
listened to spiritual music while imagining, in a state of fear and
trembling, that the Day of Judgment was arriving.

5. (733) we received these melodies: means especially the melodies
which have a spiritual impact upon listeners are the ones which
have their origin in the heavenly spheres.

6. (734) sounds (made) by the revolutions of the heavenly spheres:
"the well-known Pythagorean [= an ancient Greek] conception of
'the music of the spheres' assumes that the courses of the heavenly
bodies and the distances between them are determined according to
the laws and relations of musical harmony. Starting from this
hypothesis, Moslem philosophers developed the fantastic theory to
which Rúmí alludes to." (Nicholson, Commentary) Nicholson also
quotes from the Rasá'ilu Ikhwáni 'l-Safá: "Pythagoras, it is said,
invented the science of music, having derived it from celestial
harmonies which his pure nature and subtle intelligence enabled
him to hear." He also explained: "The Mevlevi samá` [= whirling
prayer ceremony, accompanied by music], though its emotional
origin is not in doubt, has been explained philosophically as a
representation of the planets which love-desire impels to circle
round the First Mover" [= God]."

7. (735) believers: true believers, in contrast to philosophers (who
believe that beautiful music comes from the circling of the sun,
moon, and planets), believe that such music has its origin the
melodies which human souls heard in Paradise before the fall of

8. (735) caused any ugly voice to become beautiful: "Súfís hold that
in the state of pre-existence all human souls were with Adam in
Paradise (see I 1241, note), where cacophony [= discordant,
inharmonious sound] is unknown." (Nicholson, Commentary)

9. (739) When water is combined with urine and dung: as when
animals urinate into a pool of water.

10. (742) the mystical concert [samâ`]: Means the recitation of
mystical poetry or the singing or playing of musical melodies
which may induce states of spiritual awareness in the sufi listener,
who may spontaneously begin to move, dance, or whirl to the
poetry or music.

11. (742) the gathering of the (entire) mind [focussed on God]:
Nicholson explained, "... i.e. the idea of concentrating every
thought, feeling, and faculty on the Beloved." (Commentary)

12. (743) mental images: means here spiritual forms of beauty,
inspired by the music reminiscent of that heard by pre-existent
souls in Paradise. Perhaps Rumi also is referring the the beautiful
and inspired poetic images he conceived while whirling to spiritual
music-- as he often did, when composing odes and quatrains.

13. (744) scatterer of walnuts: refers to the following story of a thirsty
man who could not reach a pool of water, which was in a deep
place. He climbed up a tree and tossed in walnuts one by one "in
order that he might hear the sound made by the walnuts falling on
the water, which thrilled him with joy as (though it were) sweet
music" (from the heading preceding the story). The same story
occurs in another place in the Mathnawi: "... the noise of the water
made him drunken as (though it were) wine.... hearing the noise of
the water, which to thirsty men is (melodious) as a rebeck [= viol].
The noise... like the noise of (the trumpet of) Isráfíl: by this (noise)
life has been transferred (restored) to one (that was) dead; Or (it is)
like the noise of thunder in days of spring-- from it (the thunder)
the garden obtains so many (lovely) ornaments" (II: 1194-95,
1199-1201, translated by Nicholson).


731 lêk bod maqSûd-ash az bâng-é rabâb
ham-chô mushtâq-ân khayâl-é ân khiTâb

nâla-yé sornâ-wo tahdîd-é dohol
chêz-akê mân-ad ba-d-ân nâqûr-é kul

pas Hakîm-ân gofta-and în laHn-hâ
az dawâr-é charkh be-g'reft-êm mâ

bâng-é gardesh-hây-é charkh-ast în ke khalq
mê-sarây-and-ash ba-Tunbûr-o ba-Halq

735 mû'min-ân gôy-and k-âSâr-é behesht
naghz gardânîd har âwâz-é zesht

mâ hama ajzây-é âdam bûda-êm
dar behesht ân laHn-hâ be-sh'nûda-êm

gar-che bar mâ rêkht âb-o gel shakê
yâd-emân âmad az ân-hâ chêz-akê

lêk chûn âmêkht bâ khâk-é kurab
kay deh-and în zêr-o în bam ân Tarab?

âb chûn âmêkht bâ bawl-o komêz
gasht ze-âmêz-esh mazâj-ash talkh-o têz

740 chêz-akê az âb hast-ash dar jasad
bawl gîr-ash, âteshê-râ mê-kosh-ad

gar najes shod âb, în Tab`-ash be-mând
k-âtesh-é gham-râ ba-Tab`-é khwad neshând

pas ghiZây-é `âshiq-ân âmad samâ`
ke dar-ô bâsh-ad khayâl-é ijtimâ`

quwwatê gîr-ad khayâlât-ê Zamîr
balke Sûrat gard-ad az bâng-o Safîr

744 âtesh-é `ishq az nawâ-hâ gasht têz
ân-chon-ân ke âtash-é ân jawz-rêz

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)