3659 Who is (there) who can restrain (himself) from something
forbidden?-- since man is greedy for what is forbidden.1
3660 What is prohibited is despised by the people of piety,2 (but)
it is stirring excitement for the people of craving.
So as a result of this, "He leads many people astray by it (and) He
guides [many people] rightly by it"3 (who have) an aware heart as
3662 The friendly dove won't fly in terror from the (sound of the
bird catcher's) pipe. But the (wild) doves of the air are (certainly)
afraid of that pipe (sound)!
. . . . . . .
3666 The mentioning of the "phrase of exception"4 [by saying, "If
God Wills"] and (of having) the strength of mind to hold back5
was made in the beginning of the Mathnawi.6
If there are a hundred (religious) books, they are (essentially)
nothing except a single chapter [about this].7 A hundred directions
have no aim except the prayer-niche8 [showing the direction
The (goal of) deliverance and safety of these roads is one House,9
(and) these thousands of ears of corn are from one Seed.10
The hundred thousand kinds of different food and drink are all one
thing in comparison,
3670 (For) when you have become completely satisfied by one,
fifty (other) foods become cold (and unappealing) to your heart.
3671 Therefore, you have been squint-eyed [and seeing multiple
objects] when feeling hungry because you have seen something
single as a hundred thousand.11
. . . . . . .
3680 If you tie an ox in a stable, (and on) returning, you find a
donkey in the ox's place,
It would be the negligence of donkeyish stupidity, as (if) being
asleep, if you don't find out who is the hidden doer.
But you wouldn't have said, "Who is the switcher?-- (since) he is
not visible, perhaps he is a heavenly being."
You've shot an arrow to the right, (and then) seen your arrow go
to the left.
(And) you've galloped (your horse) toward a deer to (hunt) a
prey, (and then) made yourself the prey of a wild boar.
3685 You've run in pursuit of some gain for the sake of heaping up
(profits), (and then) the gain failed to arrive (and) you ended up in
(And) you've dug wells for the sake of others, (and then) found
yourself fallen into one.
Since the Lord acted against your wish in regard to the means12,
then why don't you become suspicious toward the means?
Many a person has become an emperor by striving to acquire
(wealth); another has become (poor and) naked by efforts to gain
Many a person has become (rich like) Qaroon13 from marriage to
[wealthy] women. (And) many a person has (also) become a debtor
from marrying women.
3690 Therefore, the means is turning around like a donkey's tail--
(so) it's better not to depend on it.
And if you choose a means, don't hold on (to it) too bravely, since
there are many misfortunes hidden underneath it.
The secret of the "phrase of exception"14 is this strength of mind
(to hold back) and caution, because the (Divine) Decree15 may
make the donkey to appear (as) a goat--
(For) even though the one whose eyes it bound (with a blindfold)
is sly and clever, in both of his eyes the donkey is a goat because
of blurred vision.
Since God is the Transformer of the eyes,16 who (else) can change
the heart and thoughts?
3695 (Otherwise), you will see a well (as) a pleasant house (and) a
trap (as) an attractive (piece of) bait.
This is not sophistry.17 It is the transformation (caused) by God;18
it is showing where the realities are.
The one who is acting in denial of the realities19 is completely
involved in something imaginary.
(3698) (For) he is not saying (to himself), "Thinking about
imagination20 is also something imaginary to you, (so) rub an eye
(in order to see)!"
--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), 3/23/00
Notes on the text, with line number:
1. (3659) greedy (for) the forbidden: a proverb, as pointed out by
Nicholson-- "The proverb is: al-insánu harís-un `alá má muni`a."
(Commentary) He also noted that Rumi mentions this saying in
Mathnawi III: 854, which he translated: "Man is greedy for that
which has been forbidden." Just prior to this verse, Rumi was
telling the story of the Three Princes (a story he died before
completing), whose father told them to go anywhere except to a
certain fortress, named "The Robber of Reason," because they
should avoid the danger and difficult trials they would fall into
there. Rumi then said (as translated by Nicholson): "If their father
had not spoken these words and had not warned them against that
fortress,/ Their party would never have approached the fortress,
their desire would never have inclined towards it.... And, because
of this prohibition, a craving arose in their hearts to investigate the
secret of that (fortress)." (3654-55, 3658)
2. (3660) the people of piety [ahl-é tuqî]: means the people who have
"taqwâ": a Qur'anic term often translated as "fear of God," but
which is better understood as an attitude of reverential awe that is a
kind of conscious love-- because the devout person (seeking
ever-nearer closeness to God) does not wish to do anything which
could lead to further distance from the Beloved. Nicholson
translated this line: "The veto causes the devout to hate (that which
is vetoed); the veto incites the sensual to covet it."
3. (3661) He guides [many people] rightly by it: a paraphrase of the
verse, "By it He causes many to stray, and by it He guides many
rightly." (Qur'an 2:26)
4. (3666) the phrase of exception: means the importance of saying "If
God wills" in speaking about one's future actions and plans: "And
do not say about anything, 'I will certainly do it tomorrow,' without
(adding), 'If God wills!'" (Qur'an 18:23-24) Just prior to this, Rumi
told how the princes said to their father, "'We will perform the
services (required of us) we will be intent on hearing and obeying
(thy commands)./ We will not turn aside from thy commands;
'twould be ingratitude to forget thy kindness';/ But, because of their
reliance upon themselves, 'twas far from them to pronounce the
saving clause and glorify God." (3663-65, translated by Nicholson)
5. (3666) to hold back: means to delay asserting that one will do such
and such-- long enough to be aware that God is the Originating
Cause of all that will happen in the future.
6. (3666) in the beginning of the Mathnawi: refers to Rumi's lines
near the beginning of Book One (about the physicians in the story
of the King and the Handmaiden): "In their arrogance they did not
say, 'If God will'; therefore God showed unto them the weakness of
Man./ I mean (a case in which) omission of the saving clause is
(due to) a hardness of heart; not the mere saying of these words,
for that is a superficial circumstance./ How many a one has not
pronounced the saving clause, and yet his soul is in harmony with
the soul of it!" (Mathnawi I: 48-50, trans. by Nicholson)
7. (3667) a single chapter: Nicholson translated, "If there are a
hundred (religious) books, (yet) they are but one chapter: a
hundred (different) regions seek but one place of worship." He
explained "one chapter" as meaning, "I.e. the gist of them is all is
contained in one chapter." (Footnote) Since the previous line
mentioned the "phrase of exception," this line presumably means
that hundreds of religious books (and most books written during
Rumi's time had to do with religious subjects), can be summarized
as affirming the Omnipotence of the Divine Will and the need for
submission [islam] to it.
8. (3667) the prayer-niche [miHrâb]: this is an indentation in the wall
of a mosque indicating the direction to face (toward the Ka`ba in
Mecca) when praying, which unifies the focus of worshippers all
over the world. Nicholson's translation ["a hundred (different)
regions seek but one place of worship"] is mistaken here, because
the main meaning of the word "jehat" is "direction" (and not
"region") and because of the well-known meaning of the word for
"prayer-niche." Although this word does means a "private
chamber" in the Qur'an (but not specifically a place of worship),
the universal meaning has to do with the direction toward Mecca.
Perhaps the meaning here is that all directions seek to point toward
the essential direction, which is toward God ["Which ever way you
turn, there is the Face of God" (Qur'an 2:115)] and that every
direction "seeks" to pray to God and submit to His Will.
9. (3668) one House: may refer to "House of God," meaning the
temple called the Ka`ba in Mecca. It means the Presence of God.
Nicholson says: "Cf. the saying: al turuqu ilá 'lláhi bi-`adadi anfási
'l-khalá'iq..." ["The roads to God are as numerous as the souls of
10. (3668) one Seed: all nourishment comes from God, who is the
Source of Provision, the Provider of all needs.
11. (3671) as a hundred thousand: means that a very hungry person
imagines that a single food is as wonderful as thousands of
different foods. Nicholson explained about this line and the
preceding four lines (3667-71): "According to WM [= the Indian
commentator, Wali Muhammad], the point which these analogies
illustrate is that further explanations of the istithnà [= the phrase of
exception: "if God wills"] would be futile because their purpose is
essentially one, so that they all come to the same thing in the
end..." Nicholson then added, "... evidently the passage has a much
wider application" and referred to another note: "The action of God
is absolutely unconditioned. He does what he pleases (Qur. I 109).
He is the Causer of causes (musabbib-i asbáb) and the Transmuter
of essences (mubaddil-i a`yán)." (Commentary) In other words, the
essence of all knowledge, goals, desires, etc. is that God wills
whatever He wills. And the saints and mystics have been graced
with the full acceptance of this in their profound degree of
submission [islâm] to the Divine Will.
12. (3682) regard to the means: Nicholson translated, "Since the Lord
has disappointed you in regard to the means (of obtaining your
13. (3689) (rich like) Qaroon: the name of a wealthy man (the same as
Korah in the Torah, Numbers chapter 16) who led a rebellion
against Moses: "Qaroon was certainly of the people of Moses, but
he was arrogant toward them-- for We gave him such treasures...
(So) do not exult (in your riches), for God does not love those who
exult (in vain things)." (Qur'an 28:76)
14. (3692) the "phrase of exception": see note above.
15. (3692) (Divine) Decree [qadar]: the Destiny commanded by the
Will of God.
16. (3694) the Transformer of the eyes: refers to the verse, "... a Day
when hearts and eyes will be transformed." (24:37)
17. (3696) sophistry [tasafsuT]: an Arabic word derived from Greek--
a subtle and clever manner of reasoning which leads to a wrong
18. (3696) It is the transformation (caused) by God: Nicholson
explains Rumi's view here as, "The doctrine that God is Muqallibu
'l-qulúb wa-'l-absár wa-'l--ahwál wa-'l-afkár [= the Changer of the
hearts and eyes and the states and thoughts] , although it implies
that things have no real existence in themselves, must not be
confused with absolute scepticism; on the contrary, it shows that
the real existence of all things is in God." (Commentary)
19. (3697) in denial of the realities: Nicholson refers here to a school
of Sceptics known as the Hisbániyyah, who taught that there is
essentially no real existence and so-called realities are mirages
thought up by those who are like people thirsty for water.
20. (3698) Thinking about imagination: Nicholson translated, "'Thy
thinking (that all is) phantasy (illusion) is also a phantasy: rub an
eye (and see)!'"
kî-st k-az mamnû` gard-ad mumtani`
chûn-ke al-insân HarîS-un mâ muni`
nahî bar ahl-é tuqà tabghîZ shod
nahî bar ahl-é hawâ taHrîZ shod
pas az-în yughwî bi-hi qawm-an kaSîr
ham az-în yahdî bi-hi qalb-an khabîr
kay ram-ad az nay Hamâm-é âshnâ
bal ram-ad z-ân nay Hamâmât-é hawâ
. . . . . . .
Zikr-é istiSnâ-wo Hazm-é multawî
gofta shod dar ibtidây-é maSnawî
Sad kitâb ar hast joz yak bâb nêst
Sad jehat-râ qaSd joz miHrâb nêst
în Turuq-râ makhlaSî yak khâna-ast
în hazâr-ân sunbul az yak dâna-ast
gûna gûna khwardanî-hâ Sad hazâr
jomla yak chêz-ast andar i`tibâr
az yakê chûn sêr gasht-î tô tamâm
sard shod andar del-at panjah Ta`âm
dar majâ`at pas tô aHwal bûda-î
ke yakê-râ Sad hazâr-ân dîda-î
. . . . . . .
gar bo-band-î dar SiTablê gâw-é nar
bâz yâb-î dar maqâm-é gâw, khar
az kharî bâsh-ad taghâful khofta-war
ke na-jôy-î tâ key-ast ân kufya-kâr
khwad na-gofta în mabaddil tâ key-ast?
nêst paydâ ô magar aflâkey-ast
têr sôy-é râst parrândîda-î
sôy-é chap raft-ast têr-at, dîda-î
sôy-é âhûyê ba-Saydê tâkht-î
khêsh-râ tô Sayd-é khûkê sâkht-î
dar pay-é sûdê dawîda bahr-é kabs
nâ-rasîda sûd, oftâda ba-Habs
châh-hâ kanda barây-é dêgar-ân
khêsh-râ dîda fotâda andar ân
dar sabab chûn bê-murâd-at kard rab
pas che-râ bad-Zan na-gard-î dar sabab?
bas kasê az maksabê khâqân shoda
dêgarê z-ân maksabah `uryân shoda
bas kas az `aqd-é zan-ân qârûn shoda
bas kas az `aqd-é zan-ân madyûn shoda
pas sabab, gardân chô domm-é khar bow-ad
takya bar way kam kon-î, behtar bow-ad
w-ar sabab gîr-î, na-gîr-î ham delîr
ke bas âfat-hâ-st penhân-ash ba-zêr
sirr-é istiSnâ-st în Hazm-o HaZar
z-ân-ke khar-râ boz nomây-ad în qadar
ân-ke chashm-ash bast gar-che gorboz-ast
z-ahwalî andar dô chashm-ash khar, boz-ast
chûn muqallib Haq bow-ad abSâr-râ
ke be-gardân-ad del-o afkâr-râ?
châh-râ tô khâna'yê bîn-î laTîf
dâm-râ tô dâna'yê bîn-î Zarîf
în tasafsuT nêst, taqlîb-é khodâ-st
mê-nomây-ad ke Haqîqat-hâ kojâ-st
ân-ke inkâr-é Haqâyiq mê-kon-ad
jomlagê ô bar khayâlê mê-tan-ad
ô na-mê-gôy-ad ke Hisbân-é khayâl
ham khayâlê bâsh-ad-at, chashmê be-mâl
(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)