The Saint Is A Mirror

Mathnawi IV: 2102-2153

The story of "Glory be to me! How great is my rank!"1-- the
saying of Abu Yazid (Bistami), may God sanctify his spirit.
And the criticism of (his) disciples. And the answer to this
(which he gave) to them-- not by way of the tongue's speech
but by way of (direct) seeing.

2102 Bayazid,2 the great dervish,3 came to (his) disciples (and)
said, "Look! I am God!"

That master of the (mystical) branches of knowledge spoke like a
drunkard, (saying), "There is no divinity except me, so worship

When that ecstatic state was over with, they said to him at dawn,
"You spoke such (words) as these, and it isn't right!"

2105 (Bayazid) said, "This time, if I am involved (in such talk),
strike at me (with your) knives at that (very) moment.

"(For) God (is) pure and free from (having) a body, but I have a
body. (So) if I speak like this (again), (then) killing me is

When that (spiritually) freed man made the command, each
disciple equipped (himself with) a knife.

(Bayazid) became (spiritually) drunk (once) again from that full
(wine) jug,5 (and) those commands of his went (far) from (his)

A dessert arrived (and) his intellect became a wandering outcast.
The dawn arrived (and) his candle became (overwhelmed) and

2110 The intellect is like a governmental official: when the
(mighty) king arrives, the helpless official crawls into a corner.

The intellect is (like) the shadow of God, (and) God (like) the sun.
What power does the shadow have to bear (the Light of) the Sun of

If a genie6 becomes predominant over a man, human qualities
become missing from the man.

Whatever he says, the genie is speaking (the words). Someone
from this side is speaking by means of someone from that (other)

If a genie has this (much) influence and control, how (much
greater) is the Creator of that genie!

2115 His "he-ness" has left (and) he has himself become the genie.
The Turk became an Arabic-speaker8 without (being taught by)
Divine inspiration.

(Then), when he returns to himself, he doesn't know a single
word (of Arabic). If a genie has this (kind of) nature and quality,

Then the Lord of a genie and a man can never have any less
(power) than a genie!

If a drunkard9 drinks the blood of a male lion, you'd say, "He
didn't act, (but) the wine did (it)."

And if he perfects (his) speech by (using) the finest gold, you'd
say, "The wine has said those (eloquent) words."

2120 (Since) a (quantity of) wine has this disturbance and
agitation, does the Light of God not have that excellence and

(So) that it may make you completely empty of "you," (so that)
you may become lowly and He may exalt the words10 (spoken by
your mouth)!

Even though the Qur'an is (spoken) from the lips of the Prophet,
whoever says that God did not speak it, he is a denier.11

When the phoenix bird12 of no-selfness flew (aloft), Bayazid began
(to speak) those (kind of) words (again).

The flash flood of (mystical) bewilderment seized (his) intellect,
(so that) he spoke more forcefully than he had in the beginning.

2125 (He said), "There is nothing in my robe except God,13 (so)
how much (longer) will you search on the earth and upon the

The disciples became completely crazed (and) were thrusting
(their) knives into his holy body.

Each one was tirelessly stabbing his spiritual master, like the
heretics of Gerdakuh.14

Anyone who (tried to) puncture the Master with a knife was, in
the opposite manner, tearing open his own body.

(There) was not a single mark on the body of that master of
(mystical) sciences, yet those disciples (were) wounded and
drowned in a whirlpool of blood.

2130 Any who brought a blow toward the (Master's) throat saw his
own throat cut and died groaning.

And the one who struck a blow into the (Master's) chest, his own
chest was split open and he became forever dead.

But the one who was aware of that master of intimacy,15 (and his)
heart did not give him (permission) to strike a heavy blow,

(His) half-knowledge bound his hand (and) he won (back his) life,
except that he wounded himself.

It became daylight, and (the number of) those disciples was
decreased. (Many) wails (of grief) arose from their homes.16

2135 Thousands of men and women came before him, saying, "O
you, within whose robe this world and the next17 are wrapped!

"If this body of yours were the body of a human,18 it would have
been lost (to you) because of the daggers, like an (ordinary) human

Someone with a self fought against someone without a self, (but)
the one with a self thrust a thorn into his own eye.

O you (who) strike against the selfless ones with (your) sword, be
aware! (For) you will strike that (blow) against your own body.

Because the selfless one is annihilated19 (and) he is safe; he is in (a
state of) permanent safety.20

2140 (For) his form (has) vanished and he has became a mirror.21
In that place, (there is) nothing besides the image of another face.

If you spit (at it),22 you do (that) toward your own face, and if you
beat against the mirror, you beat against yourself.

And if you see an ugly face (there), you are also that.23 And if you
see (the image of) Jesus or Mary,24 you are (that).

(The spiritual master) is not this or that; he is simple.25 He has put
your own image in front of you.

When (this) speech reached this place, it shut (its) lips. (And)
when the pen reached this place, it shattered against itself.26

2145 Close (your) lips.27 Even though eloquence has given (you)
help, don't breathe (a word). And God is the best knower of the
right path.

You are on the edge of the roof,28 O you (who are) continually
drunk!29 Either sit down or come below.30 And (may) the peace (of
God be upon you)!

Any time that you become joyful,31 know (that) that moment of
(spiritual) happiness (is like being on) the edge of the roof.

Be on guard at the moment of joy;32 hide it like a treasure (and)
don't reveal (it),

So that misfortune may not reach (your state) of loving intimacy.
(So) go very timidly into that hidden place of [possible] ambush.

2150 The soul's dread of the disappearance (of happiness) during
the time of joy is the (sign of) moving away from the invisible
edge of the roof.

If you don't see the secret edge of the roof, (your) spirit sees (it)
since it is shaking (with fear).

Every sudden punishment which has occurred has been on the
edge of the turret of joy.33

2153 There is no falling (down) except (from) the edge of the roof.
(Be) warned by (what happened to) the people of Noah and the
people of Lot.

--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" (, 6/15/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (Heading) my rank: A famous, and very controversial, ecstatic
saying attributed to the famous sufi master, Abu Yazid al-Bistami,
who died in 875. It was considered blasphemous, but defended by
the sufis as something said in an uncontrollable state of spiritual
ecstasy, spoken by God through him-- not said by him, since God
had annihilated his selfhood during that moment.

2. (2102) Bayazid: another form of the name of Abu Yazid-- Bayazid

3. (2102) dervish: literally, "faqeer," which is a sufi technical term
meaning someone on the path of "spiritual poverty" [faqr]. This is
related to the sufi interpretation of the Qur'anic verse: "O man, you
are poor (fuqarâ) in relation to God, and God is the Rich, the
Praiseworthy" (35:15). These terms were later translated into
Persian as "a poor one" [darwísh] and "poverty" [darwêshî].

4. (2103) so worship me: a verse of the Qur'an (with an extra syllable
added for the meter): "There is no divinity except Me, so worship
Me (only)!" (21:25). Nicholson added: "[Abú Nasr] Sarráj refers to
this text in support of his plea that when Báyazíd said 'subhání' [=
Glory be to me] he was only quoting and reciting God's description
of Himself." (Nicholson, Commentary)

5. (2108) (wine) jug: refers to "spiritual wine," which produces
spiritual "drunkenness" or spiritual/mystical states of
consciousness, including ecstasy.

6. (2112) genie: literally, "fairy" [parî]. This Persian word was
incorrectly adopted to translate the Arabic word "jinn." A class of
invisible creatures, which are parallel in some way to humanity,
but are usually invisible. In Arabic, someone "possessed by a jinn"
is called "majnûn"-- meaning "crazy" or speaking strange words
which the possessing jinn is saying. Nicholson referred here to the
"analogy drawn here between an ecstatic saint and a man or
woman possessed by a Jinní..." (Commentary)

7. (2113) that (other) side: means the invisible side of existence,
where genies and supernatural beings live.

8. (2115) an Arabic-speaker: "The Jinní, of course, speaks his own
language, i.e. Arabic." (Nicholson, Commentary) It is the genie
who speaks his own language (of Arabic) through the possessed
man. This is in contrast to the story of a miraculous transformation
of an illiterate Kurd, who said a prayer which was granted, so that
the next morning he was able to discourse eloquently on the Qur'an
in Arabic, saying, "In the evening I was a Kurd, and in the morning
I was an Arab"-- quoted in Mathnawi, Preface to Book I].

9. (2118) a drunkard [shîr-gîr]: literally, "milk-seizer." An idiom
meaning a wine-drinker. This is a word play on "lion-capturer"

10. (2121) He may exalt the words: "i.e. when the saint is 'naughted'
(fání), God causes the eternal 'kalám Alláh' [= Word of God] to
manifest itself and become articulate on his tongue." (Nicholson,

11. (2122) a denier [kâfir]: this word is often mistranslated as "infidel."
Here it means someone who rejects, denies, and disbelieves that
God is able to send Revelation to mankind in human language
through His chosen prophets (such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and

12. (2123) the phoenix-bird [homây]: a miraculous bird, which flies
constantly, never needing to touch the ground.

13. (2125) nothing in my robe except God: "The saying 'laysa fí
'l-jubbati (or 'fí jubbatí') siwá 'lláh' is also attributed to Abú Sa'íd
ibn Abí 'l-Khayr..." (Nicholson, Commentary)

14. (2127) the heretics of Gerdakuh: refers to the "extreme Shi'ite"
Ismaili sect, who were at one time called the "Assassins."
According to legends about them, they were so brainwashed by
drugs and extremist religious doctrine, that they were convinced of
going immediately to Paradise if they carried out terrorist acts
ordered by their spiritual chief. They were said to prefer to die
after assassinating their assigned object (usually a high ranking
government official), and that they viewed it as a disgrace to return
alive. Nicholson states that the Assassins referred to here were
from a fortress "near Dámaghán in the Qúmis province..."

15. (2132) master of (spiritual) intimacy [qirân]: This word means
"conjunction," and therefore intimacy as well as an astrological
conjunction of fortunate planets. Nicholson translated, "(spiritual)
emperor of high-fortune."

16. (2134) from their homes: meaning from the families of the
deceased disciples.

17. (2135) this world and the next: literally, "the two worlds." Means
this life and the Hereafter.

18. (2136) the body of a human: Nicholson stated, "This may be an
allusion to the saint's 'immaterial body' (jism latíf)." (Commentary)
He then refers to Rumi's heading just prior to Book III: 1610,
which he translated: "Explaining that the body is as a garment to
the spirit, and that this (bodily) hand is the sleeve of the spirit's
hand, and that this (bodily) foot is the shoe of the spirit's foot."

19. (2139) annihilated [faniy]: means passed away from self (and thus
continual ego-centered preoccupation) in God. This is a technical
sufi term related to the better known word "fanâ."

20. (2139) safety: means safe from returning again to the state of
forgetfulness of God and egoistic "self-worship."

21. (2140) a mirror: "The Perfect Man is the mirror of Truth, in which
the real forms of all things are reflected, good as good and evil as
evil." (Nicholson, Commentary)

22. (2141) spit (at it): "I.e. 'if you hate the saints, it is only because
they bring before you the image of your hateful self'." (Nicholson,

23. (2142) And if you see an ugly face (there), you are also that: "In
this passage (if I have rightly understood its meaning) Rúmí,
speaking as a murshid [= spiritual master/guide], warns all
concerned that states of rapture and ecstasy are precarious and
must be jealously guarded from the vulgar." (Nicholson,

24. (2142) Jesus or Mary: means, "If you are a man of purity, you will
see the image of a face similar to that of Jesus; if you are a woman
of purity, a face similar to that of Mary, the mother of Jesus."

25. (2143) simple: Nicholson translated, "he is simple (pure and free
from attributes of self)".

26. (2144) it shattered against itself: This line is similar to Rumi's
famous line near the beginning of the Mathnawi: "When the pen
was hurrying to write (an explanation of Love), it shattered against
itself when it reached Love (directly)." (I:114)

27. (2145) Close (your) lips: Nicholson translated this as if Rumi were
speaking to himself: "Close thy lips (O my soul)..."

28. (2146) the edge of the roof: "In this passage (if I have rightly
understood its meaning) Rúmí, speaking as a murshid [= a
spiritual guide], warns all concerned that states of rapture and
ecstasy are precarious and must be jealously guarded from the
vulgar." (Nicholson, Commentary)

29. (2146) O you (who are) continually drunk: Nicholson translated,
"O you who are drunken with the wine (of love)..."

30. (2146) or come below: "The 'intoxicated' mystic who has not yet
reached perfection stands in great peril: either let him subside into
absolute quiet and passivity or else return to self-consciousness
and sober reason, lest he offend and alienate his beloved by
disclosing the mystery of 'union' (sirru 'l-rubúbiyyah)." (Nicholson,

31. (2147) you become joyful: Nicholson translated, "Every moment
when you enjoy (union with the Beloved)..."

32. (2148) Be on guard at the moment of joy: Nicholson translated,
"Be trembling for (fear of losing) the delightful moment..."

33. (2152) the turret of joy: an idiom meaning the height of happiness.
A turret is a niched defensive tower upon a wall. The meaning here
is that an unexpected fall into misfortune often happens after a
peak experience of happiness, because of having a wrong attitude.
"Possession of spiritual joy depends on the dread of losing it
through any act of irreverence or disobedience. Fear of God
ensures felicity both in this world and hereafter. The peoples of
Noah and Lot were destroyed at the moment when they spurned
the Divine gift that was in their grasp." (Nicholson, Commentary)


qiSSa-yé subHân-î mâ a`Zama sha'n-î goftan-é Abû Yazîd--
qaddasu 'llâhu sirr-hu-- wa i`tirâZ-é murîd-ân wa jawâb-é în
mar îshân-râ na ba-Tarîq-é goft-é zabân balke az râh-é `ayân

2102 bâ murîd-ân ân faqîr-é muHtasham
bâyazîd âmad ke nak yazdân man-am

goft mastâna `ayân ân Zû funûn
lâ ilâha ill' anâ hâ f-a`budûn

chûn goZasht ân Hâl goft-and-ash SabâH
tô chon-în goft-î-wo în na-b'w-ad SalâH

2105 goft în bâr ar kon-am man mashgala
kârd-hâ bar man zanîd ân dam hala

Haq munazzah az tan-o man bâ-tan-am
chûn chon-în gôy-am, be-bâyad koshtan-am

chûn waSiyyat kard ân âzâd-mard
har murîdê kârdê âmâda kard

mast gasht ô bâz az ân saghrâq-é zaft
ân waSiyyat-hâ-sh az khâtir be-raft

nuql âmad, `aql-é ô âwâra shod
SubH âmad, sham`-é ô bê-châra shod

2110 `aql chûn shaHna-ast, chûn sulTân rasîd
shaHna-yé bê-châra dar konjê khazîd

`aql sâya-yé Haq bow-ad, Haqq âftâb
sâya-râ bâ âftâb-é ô che tâb?

chûn parî ghâlib shaw-ad bar âdamê
gom shaw-ad az mard waSf-é mardomî

har-che gôy-ad ân parî gofta bow-ad
z-în sarê, z-ân, ân sarê gofta bow-ad

chûn parî-râ în dam-o qânûn bow-ad
kerdegâr-é ân parî khwad chûn bow-ad?

2115 ô-yé ô rafta, parî khwad ô shoda
tork-é bê-ilhâm tâzî-gô shoda

chûn ba-khwad ây-ad na-dân-ad yak lughat
chûn parî-râ hast în Zât-o Sifat

pas khodâwand-é parîy-ô âdamê
az parî kay bâsh-ad-ash âkhir kamê?

shîr-gîr ar khûn-é narra-shêr khward
tô be-gôy-î ô na-kard, ân bâda kard

w-ar sokhon pardâz-ad az zarr-é kahon
tô be-gôy-î bâda goft-ast ân sokhon

2120 bâdayê-râ mê-bow-ad în sharr-o shûr
nûr-é Haq-râ nêst ân farhang-o zûr?

ke to-râ az tô ba-kul khâlî kon-ad
tô shaw-î past, ô sokhon `âlî kon-ad?

gar-che qur'ân az lab-é payghâmbar-ast
har ke goy-ad Haq na-goft ô kâfir-ast

chûn homây-é bê-khwadî parwâz
kard ân sokhon-râ bâyazîd âghâz kard

`aql-râ sayl-é taHayyur dar robûd
z-ân qawî-tar goft k-awwal gofta bûd

2125 nêst andar jubba-am illâ khodâ
chand joy-î bar zamîn-o bar samâ?

ân murîd-ân jumla dêwâna shod-and
kârd-hâ dar jism-é pâk-ash mê-zad-and

har yakê chûn mulHid-ân-é gerda-kûh
kârd mê-zad pîr-é khwad-râ bê-setûh

har ke andar shaykh têghê mê-khalîd
bâz-gôna az tan-é khwad mê-darîd

yak aSar na bar tan-é ân Zû funûn
w-ân murîd-ân khasta-wo gharq-âb-é khûn

2130 har ke ô sôy-é golô-y-ash zakhm bord
Halq-é khwad bo-brîda dîd-o zâr mord

w-ân-ke ô-râ zakhm andar sîna zad
sîna-ash be-sh'kâft-o shod morda-yé abad

w-ân-ke âgah bûd az ân SâHib-qirân
del na-dâd-ash ke zan-ad zakhm-é gerân

nêm-dânesh dast-é ô-râ basta kard
jân bo-bord illâ ke khwad-râ khasta kard

rôz gasht-o ân murîd-ân kâsta
nawHa-hâ az khâna-shân bar khâsta

2135 pêsh-é ô âmad hazâr-ân mard-o zan
k-ay dô `âlam darj-é dar yak pîrahan

în tan-é tô gar tan-é mardom bod-y
chûn tan-é mardom ze-khanjar gom shod-y?

bâ-khwadê bâ bê-khwadê dô-châr zad
bâ-khwad andar dîda-yé khwad khâr zad

ay zada bar bê-khwad-ân tô Zû 'l-faqâr
bar tan-é khwad mê-zan-î ân, hôsh dâr

z-ân-ke bê-khwad fâniy-ast-o âmin-ast
tâ abad dar âminî ô sâkin-ast

2140 naqsh-é ô fânîy-wo ô shod âyena
ghayr-é naqsh-é rôy-é ghayr ân-jâyê na

gar kon-î tof, sôy-é rôy-é khwad kon-î
w-ar zan-î bar âyena, bar khwad zan-î

w-ar be-bîn-î rôy-é zesht, ân ham tow-î
w-ar be-bîn-î `îsà-wo maryam tow-î

ô na în-ast-o na ân, ô sâda-ast
naqsh-é tô dar pêsh-é tô be-n'hâda-ast

chûn rasîd în-jâ sokhon lab dar bo-bast
chûn rasîd în-jâ qalam dar-ham shekast

2145 lab bo-band ar che faSâHat dast dâd
dam ma-zan, wa 'llâhu a`lam bi-r-rashâd

bar kanâr-é bâm-î, ay mast-é mudâm
past be-n'shîn, yâ ferôd â wa 's-salâm

har zamânê ke shod-î tô kâm-rân
ân dam-é khwosh-râ kanâr-é bâm dân

bar zamân-é khwosh herâsân bâsh tô
ham-chô ganj-ash khufya kon na fâsh tô

tâ na-y-ây-ad bar walâ nâgah balâ
tars tarsân raw dar ân makman halâ

2150 tars-é jân dar waqt-é shâdî az zawâl
z-ân kanâr-é bâm-é ghayb-ast irtiHâl

gar na-mê-bîn-î kanâr-é bâm-é râz
rûH mê-bîn-ad ke hast-ash ihtizâz

har nakâlê nâgahân k-ân âmad-ast
bar kanâr-é kongora-yé shâdî bod-ast

2153 joz kanâr-é bâm khwad na-b'w-ad saqûT
i`tibâr az qawm-é nûH-o qawm-é lûT

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)