What Is the Soul?

Mathnawi VI: 148-154

148 What is the soul? (It is being) aware of good and evil; (it is)
joy at possessing goodness and weeping from [causing] harm.

Since awareness of experience is the core and substance of the
soul, whoever is more aware is more possessed of soul!

150 Awareness is the effect of the spirit; whoever has much (of)
this, is worthy of God.

Since awarenesses exist beyond this (bodily) nature, these souls are
(like) inanimate objects in that arena.

The first soul1 is the manifestation of the (Divine) Court,
(whereas) the soul of the soul2 is itself the manifestation of God.

The angels were all (the) mind and spirit [in creation]. (Then) a
new spirit3 came, for which they were the body.4

154 When they appeared before that spirit5 (of Adam), by good
fortune, they became its servant, like [the faculties of] the body.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 1934 British translation)
Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (yahoogroups.com), 7/22/99

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (152) the first soul: "I.e. the unregenerate [= spiritually
unreformed] soul belongs to the phenomenal [= material] world."
(Nicholson, footnote) "i.e. the rudimentary ('animal' or
intelligential') soul that has not yet attained to real knowledge of
God (ma`rifah)." (Nicholson, Commentary)

2. (152) the soul of the soul: "I.e. the soul of the perfect Man is the
mirror of the Divine Essence" (Nicholson, footnote

3. (153) a new spirit: "i.e. the spirit of Adam. All powers in heaven
and earth are subject to the Perfect Man [= a "completed" saint
who reflects all the Attributes of God, according to the sufi
philosophy of Ibnu 'l-`Arabi, died 1240]: their relation to him is
that of body to its spirit. Pure though the angels were, they paid
homage to the Divine glory revealed in Adam." (Nicholson,

4. (153) the body: "I.e. to which they were subordinate." (Nicholson,

5. (154) appeared before that spirit: refers to the command of God for
the angels to bow down in obeisance to Adam [Qur'an 2:34] after
Adam demonstrated knowledge of names of things (interpreted by
the sufis as the Names of God) which the angels did not know

6. (154) like [the faculties of] the body: According to current sufi
teachings during Rumi's time (as in the school of Ibnu 'l-`Arabî),
the angels are the spiritual faculties of Macrocosmic Man. Man
was originally created to be the vice-regent of God on earth, prior
to the Fall, and it has long been the aspiration of sufis to become
the "Perfect (or Complete) Man," so as to reflect the Names of God
as humanity was originally intended to.


148 jân che bâsh-ad bâ-khabar az khayr-o shar
shâd bâ iHsân-o geryân az Zarar

chûn sir-o mâhiyyat-é jân makhbar-ast
har ke ô âgâh-tar bâ jân tar-ast

150 rûH-râ ta'Sîr âgâhî bow-ad
har ke-râ în bêsh allâhî bow-ad

chûn khabar-hâ hast bêrûn z-în nehâd
bâsh-ad în jân-hâ dar ân maydân jamâd

jân-e awwal maZhar-é dargâh shod
jân-é jân khwad maZhar-é allâh shod

ân malâ'ik jomla `aql-o jân bod-and
jân-é naw âm-ad ke jism-é ân bod-and

154 az sa`âdat chûn bar ân jân bar zad-and
ham-chô tan ân rûH-râ khâdim shod-and

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)