Seek A Friend of God (part two)

Mathnawi II: 23-55

23 Go, (and) seek a friend of God quickly. When you have done
that, God is your friend.

The one who has fastened (his) sight on solitude has, in the end,
learned (to do) that from the Friend.1

25 Solitude from "strangers" is necessary,2 (but) not from a
(spiritual) friend.3 A fur cloak is (necessary) for Winter, not

When the (discerning) intellect becomes combined with another
intellect, the (total amount of) light become increased and the road
becomes clear.

(However, when) the base ego laughs (happily) with another ego,4
the (total amount of) darkness becomes increased and the road
becomes hidden.

O man of the hunt! A (spiritual) friend is (like) your (own) eye,5
(so) keep it clean of (bits of) twigs and straw.6

Take care! Don't make any dust (rise) with the broom of (your)
tongue. (And) don't give (your) eye a traveling present7 of (bits of)
straw (from the road).

30 Since the (true) believer is the mirror for (another true)
believer,8 his face is protected from impurity.9

A (spiritual) friend is (like) a mirror for the soul in (a state of)
sadness. O (you who are as dear as the) soul, don't breathe upon
the face of the mirror!10

It's necessary to swallow (your) breath (in) every moment, so that
it doesn't hide its face in the presence of your breath.11

You are not less (valuable) than the earth: when a piece of earth
finds a friend from (among the qualities of) Spring,12 it obtains a
hundred thousand (white) flowers.

A tree which becomes joined with a friend from (among the
qualities of) the sweet air (of Spring) blossoms from head to foot.

35 (But) in the Fall, when it sees a contrary and opposing
companion,13 it draws in (its) face and head beneath (its) outer

It says, "(Having) a foul companion is to disturb (one) with
affliction. Since he has come, sleep is the best way for me.15

"So I will sleep, (and) I will be (like) one of the Companions of
the Cave16-- (since being) a lamenting prisoner is better than
(suffering the tyranny of) Daqyanoos.17

Their waking (hours) were spent by (the tyranny of) Daqyanoos,
(but) their sleep was the (preserved) stock18 of (their) fame.

Sleep is wakefulness when it is (combined) with wisdom.19 (But)
what sorrow (there is) for any wakeful one who sits with20 the

40 When the crows set-up (their) tents in the middle of Winter,21
the nightingales become hidden, and are silent.22

(This is) because the nightingale is silent without the (presence of)
the rose garden. (And) the hiddeness of the sun23 is the killer of (the
nightingale's) wakefulness.

O sun! You leave this rose garden so that you may radiate light
under the earth.24

(But) the sun of mystical knowledge25 has no movement,
(and) it's rising-place is none other than the spirit and the
discriminating intellect--

Especially, a Sun of Perfection26 which is (active) in that
(transcendent) direction.27 It's occupation is (in radiating) an
illumination, day and night.

45 If you are an Alexander (the Great), come to the rising-place of
(this) Sun.28 After that, anywhere you travel, you are well-

After that, anywhere you travel is the rising-place (of this Sun),30
(and all) rising-places will be in love with your place of sunset.31

Your (bodily) senses (resembling those) of the bat are running
toward the place of sunset, (but) your pearl-scattering senses32 are
traveling toward the place of sunrise.33

O mounted rider!34 The way of the (physical) senses is the road for
donkeys. O you (who are) bothering donkeys,35 have (some)

Besides these five (bodily) senses, there are five (spiritual)
senses,36 (and) those (are) like red (colored) gold. But these
(physical) senses (are) like copper.

50 In the market, where the people at the place of gathering (for
the Day of Judgment)37 will never buy the copper (-like) sense as
(if it had the worth of) gold.

The (physical) senses of bodies are eating the food of darkness,
(but) the senses of the soul are grazing from a (spiritual) Sun.

O you (who) have carried the belongings of (your) senses to the
Unperceived (World), bring (your) hand from (your) chest, like

O you whose qualities (are those of) the Sun of spiritual
knowledge39-- yet the revolving sun is bound to one attribute40--

Sometimes you are a Sun, and then you become an Ocean;41
sometimes (you are) the mountain of Qaf,42 and then you become
the Phoenix (bird).43

55 O you (who are) greater than (what can be conceived by)
imaginations, and much more than that, within your essence, you
are not this or that.

--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 1926 British translation)
Š Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (, 12/6/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (24) the Friend [yâr]: may also be translated as "the Beloved,"
meaning God. Nicholson interpreted this line as referring to a
human spiritual companion (Husamuddin Chelebi). However, the
previous line states, "your friend is God" [yâr-é tô]. Nicholson
translated: "He who has fixed his gaze upon seclusion (and made it
his) object), after all 'tis from the friend (of God) that he has
learned that (lesson)."

2. (25) Solitude from "strangers" is necessary: means from non-
mystics who might distract the spiritual seeker from the Path

3. (25) (but) not from a (spiritual) friend: "The object of khalwat [=
spiritual retreat] is to be alone with God; but.... The murĖd [=
spiritual disciple] who would guard himself against thinking of his
Shaykh [= spiritual master and guide] resembles a man who in
warm spring weather puts on the fur-coat that he wore as a
protection against the winter cold." (Nicholson, Commentary)

4. (27) the base ego laughs (happily) with another ego: Nicholson
translated: "(But if) the fleshly soul makes merry with another
fleshly soul..." The "base ego" [nafs] is the "bodily self," which
pressures one's mind, emotions, and strives after bodily and
worldly cravings for various pleasures and satisfactions. This often
conflicts with the inclinations of the spirit and the intellect (using
this word in its best sense of wise discernment).

Nicholson commented: "Literally, 'becomes laughing,' i.e. friendly
and familiar." (Footnote)

5. (28) A (spiritual) friend is (like) your (own) eye: "Since the saint
endowed with knowledge of God is the means whereby the seeker
attains to spiritual perception, care must be taken to avoid anything
that might hurt his feelings and disturb his inward vision."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

"It means, 'A guide [murshid] who directs spiritual guidance is like
your (own) eye...'" (Anqaravi, the 17th century Turkish
commentator, translated here into English from a Persian

6. (28) (so) keep it clean of (bits of) twigs and straw: Nicholson
translated, "keep him pure from (unsoiled by) sticks and straws."

7. (29) a traveling present [rah-awardê]: literally, "a road-bringing."
This is a word-play since the meaning here is gifts expected to be
given to the family and friends of someone who has returned from
a long journey-- not the dust and rubbish of broken straw and twigs
from the road.

8. (30) the (true) believer is the mirror for (another true) believer: On
this Hadíth [= saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad] see I
1327-1328 supra and notes ad loc." [= "The true believer is a
mirror to the true believer." (al-mu'minu mir'át'u 'l-mu'mini]
(Nicholson, Commentary)

9. (30) his face is protected from impurity: "I.e. he, being entirely
pure, reflects thy spiritual state and shows thee what thou really
art." (Nicholson, Footnote)

10. (31) don't breathe upon the face of the mirror: "It means, 'Don't act
with bold rudeness toward the spiritual guide [murshid] and don't
give signs of stubbornness toward him.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

11. (32) so that it doesn't hide its face in the presence of your breath:
"(It means), 'So that the spiritual guide won't suddenly turn (his)
face away from you.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary) Nicholson later
corrected his translation, on the basis of the earliest manuscript of
the Mathnawi, to: "Lest it cover its face to (conceal itself from)
thee at once [dar dam-at], thou must swallow (suppress) thy breath
at every moment" (from, "Lest it cover its face on account of thy
breath [az dam-at], thou must...").

In regard to this verse, Nicholson quoted (from his own translation
of Hujwiri's "Kashfu 'l-Mahjûb" by Hujwiri (died, 1071), p. 357):
"The seeker of God, who is absorbed in servantship, must be silent
in order that the adept [= sufi master], who proclaims Lordship,
may speak and by his utterances may captivate the hearts of his
disciples. The rule in speaking is not to speak unless bidden, and
then only of the thing that is bidden; and the rule in silence is not
to be ignorant or satisfied with ignorance and forgetful. The
disciple must not interrupt the speech of spiritual directors, or let
his personal judgement intrude therein, or use far-fetched
expressions in answering them."

12. (33) a friend from (among the qualities of) Spring [az bahârî]:
"Bahárí probably stands for bárán-i bahárí [= rain of Spring], as in
I 2039." (Nicholson, Commentary) Nicholson also referred to I:
2042-43, which he translated, "This breath of the Abdál (saints) is
from that (spiritual) springtide: from it there grows a green garden
in heart and soul. From their breaths there comes (is produced) in
him who is fortunate the (same) effect (as that) of the spring rain
on the tree."

"The intended meaning of 'springtide' is the (invigorating) wind
and rain (of Spring).'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

13. (35) in the Fall, when it sees a contrary and opposing companion:
"i.e. the autumn rain, bárán-i páyízí, which 'is like a consuming
fever to the garden' (I 2038)." (Nicholson, Commentary)

14. (35) it draws in (its) face and head beneath (its) outer garment: "As
applied literally to the tree, the second hemistich means that in
autumn the tree makes no display of leaves and fruit, while its
allegorical sense is that 'no spiritual development can be derived
from a bad friend, and what one has in one's soul is best concealed
from him' (Wilson, Comm., p. 10, note 44)." [= Volume II, C.E.
Wilson's Commentary on his translation into English of Book II of
the Mathnawi] (Nicholson, Commentary)

15. (36) Since he has come, sleep is the best way for me: "The words...
continue the metaphor of the fever-stricken patient who seeks
relief in sleep." (Nicholson, Commentary)

16. (37) the Companions of the Cave [aSHâb-é kahf]: refers to the
story in the 18th chapter [sûrah] of the Qur'an, according to which
some pious young men fled religious persecution and hid in a cave,
fell asleep, and (by the Will of God) woke up to find that many
years had passed.

17. (37) the tyranny of) Daqyanoos: "Decius (A.D. 249-251) is the
name of the pagan emperor who persecuted them." (Nicholson,
Commentary) This emperor persecuted the Christians within his

18. (38) their sleep was the (preserved) stock: means that their value
was preserved while they were asleep, but was spent and wasted
while they were awake and forced to serve an idol-worshiping

19. (39) Sleep is wakefulness when it is (combined) with wisdom: "Cf.
VI 4463: 'Put thyself to sleep (and escape) from this (vain)
thinking: (then) lift up thy head from sleep into (spiritual)
wakefulness.' The 'sleep' of the mystic is really a higher state of
consciousness, and has nothing in common with the 'sleep of
ignorance' (khwáb-i ghaflat), in which most people pass their
conscious lives. See also I 388-393)." (Nicholson, Commentary)

20. (39) sits with: an idiom which means spends time together: talking,
being friendly, doing things together, etc.

21. (40) When the crows set-up (their) tents in the middle of Winter:
"The crow (zágh) represents the seeker of worldly goods."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

22. (40) the nightingales become hidden, and are silent: "The saints
hold aloof from any association with worldliness and conceal
themselves from the worldly." (Nicholson, Commentary)

23. (41) the hiddeness of the sun: refers to the fewer daylight hours
during Winter, as well as the frequent over-cast and stormy days.
Nicholson translated, "the absence of the sun" And he explained:
"'The absence of the sun' refers to the dark days of winter, not to
the darkness of night." (Commentary)

24. (42) under the earth: Nicholson translated, "(the region) below the

25. (43) mystical knowledge [ma`rifat]: a technical term in
sufism. Nicholson translated, "Divine knowledge."

26. (44) a Sun of Perfection: means Husamuddin Chelebi, Rumi's
closest disciple and spiritual friend, whom he praised as inspiring
him to compose the verses of the Mathnawi.

27. (44) which is (active) in that (transcendent) direction: Nicholson
translated, "which is of yonder (world of Reality)." And, regarding
the term "sarê" [= "that (transcendent) direction"; "of yonder
(world of Reality"), he referred to Mathnawi I: 111 (which he
translated), "Whether love be from this (earthly side [= z-în sar] or
from that (heavenly) side [= z-ân sar], in the end it leads us

28. (45) If you are an Alexander (the Great), come to the rising-place
of (this) Sun: "According to Qur. XVIII 82-89, where it is related
that Dhú 'l-Qarnayn (Alexander the Great) journeyed to 'the place
of sunset' and 'the place of sunrise'. The verses (XVIII 88-89), 'then
he followed a road until, when he reached the rising-place of the
sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had made no
shelter from its beams', are explained mystically: 'after having
marched to the setting-place of the sun (i.e. the darkness of the
carnal soul), he pursued his way to its rising-place (i.e. the
illumined heart and spirit) and found there a people who were not
veiled from the sun (of Reality) by anything but the excess of its
light and the perfection of its manifestation.' Here matla`-i shams
[= "the rising-place of (this) Sun"] may signify the Perfect Man
who, as a murshid [= spiritual master and guide], sheds spiritual
radiance on his disciples." (Nicholson, Commentary)

29. (45) you are well-illumined [nêkô-far]: Nicholson translated, "thou
art possessed of goodly splendour."

30. (46) After that, anywhere you travel is the rising-place (of this
Sun): "'When you reach the goal, you will see that God reveals
Himself everywhere and that everything displays some attribute of
Him.'" Here, Anqaravi quotes a famous verse from the Qur'an:
"Whichever way you turn, there is the Face of God." (2:115)

31. (46) (and all) rising-places will be in love with your place of
sunset: "i.e. your maghrib [= place of sunset] (state of occultation,
spiritual darkness) will become a focus for the sunbeams of the
Divine tajallí [= manifestation]." (Nicholson, Commentary)

32. (47) pearl-scattering senses: "pearl-scattering" is an idiom meaning
"light-showering," due to the reflecting gleams of light from
pearls. "(It means), 'But each one of your inward senses is
scattering the pearls of mystical-intuitive knowledge [ma`rifat].'"
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

33. (47) traveling toward the place of sunrise: "This verse contrasts the
purblind external senses and their gross objects with the spiritual
senses which gather pearls of mystic knowledge." (Nicholson,

34. (48) O mounted rider: Nicholson stated that this meant, "according
to the commentators, 'O thou who art mounted on the steed of
passion (hawá).'" And he opined, "This may be the meaning
intended, but the verse seems to me to have more point if suwár [=
mounted rider] denotes Man, who in his real nature 'rides on the
spirit' (cf. I 1115 sqq., V 1077), yet is so fallen from his high estate
that he wallows in sensuality, like the ass (a type of the animal and
appetitive soul)." (Commentary)

35. (48) bothering donkeys: Nicholson translated, "jostling (vying)
with asses."

36. (49) there are five (spiritual) senses: "Concerning the five 'senses
of the heart' see infra, v. 3236 sqq." [= Book II, translated by
Nicholson: "The five (spiritual) senses are linked with one another,
because all these five have grown from one root. The strength of
one becomes the strength of the rest: each one becomes a cup-
bearer to the rest. Seeing with the eye increases speech; speech
increases penetration in the eye. Penetration (of sight) becomes the
(means of) awakening (stimulating) every sense, (so that)
perception (of the spiritual) becomes familiar to (all) the senses."]

"(It means) the common (outward) senses and (faculties such as)
the power of imagination, the power of thinking, the power of
memory..." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

37. (50) the people at the place of gathering (for the Day of Judgment):
Nicholson later corrected his translation, on the basis of the earliest
manuscript of the Mathnawi, to "In the bazaar where the people of
the Last Congregation (on the Day of Judgement) are
(purchasers)..." (from, "In the bazaar where they (the buyers) are

38. (52) bring (your) hand from (your) chest, like Moses: refers to the
Qur'anic account of a miracle manifested (by the permission of
God) by Moses, in which "he drew forth his hand [from the folds
of his garments] and it was [radiantly] white to those who
observed." (7:108; 26:34; see also 27:12 and the account in Exodus

39. (53) O you whose qualities (are those of) the Sun of spiritual
knowledge: "These verses [= II: 52-55] are addressed to the Perfect
Man [= a sufi saint who reflects all the attributes of God; a concept
in the mystical philosophy of Ibnu 'l-`Arabi, died 1240], probably
with special reference to Husámu'ddín." [= Husamuddin Chelebi,
for which see note on line 54]. (Nicholson, Commentary)

40. (53) the revolving sun is bound to one attribute: "i.e. the
production of sensible light." (Nicholson, Commentary)

41. (54) Sometimes you are a Sun, and then you become an Ocean:
"The Perfect Man illumines the world by the light of gnosis [=
mystical-intuitive knowledge]; his oceanic nature comprehends all
realities; like Mt Qáf, he encircles and upholds the universe; and
like the `Anqá (I 1441, note), he is essentially unknowable."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

"(It means), 'But, O mystic knower [`ârif], you are a sun of mystic
knowledge: you are endowed with [the blessing of reflecting] all
the Divine Attributes. Sometimes you are a sun...'" (Anqaravi,

42. (54) the mountain of Qaf: the legendary habitation of the phoenix
bird [sîmorgh, `anqâ], said to surround the world.

43. (54) the Phoenix (bird) [`anqâ]: a legendary bird with magical
abilities. For the Muslim sufis who wrote in Persian, the sîmorgh
symbolized the transcendent wisdom of spiritual love. The Persian
poet `Attar (died ca. 1225) composed his famous "Speech of the
Birds" [Mantiqu 't-Tayr] in which the quest of thirty birds [sî
morgh] is to find the simorgh [sîmorgh].


23 raw be-jô yâr-é khodâyê-râ tô zûd
chûn chon-ân kard-î, khodâ yâr-é tô bûd

ân-ke dar khalwat naZar bar dôkht-ast
âkhir ân-râ ham ze-yâr âmôkht-ast

25 khalwat az aghyâr bây-ad na ze-yâr
pôstîn bahr-é day âmad na bahâr

`aql bâ `aql-é degar dô-tâ shaw-ad
nûr afzûn gasht-o rah paydâ shaw-ad

nafs bâ nafs-é degar khandân shaw-ad
Zulmat afzûn gasht-o rah penhân shaw-ad

yâr chashm-é to-st ay mard-é shekâr
az khas-o khâshâk ô-râ pâk dâr

hîn ba-jârûb-é zabân gardê ma-kon
chashm-râ az khas rah-âwardê ma-kon

30 chûn-ke mû'min âyena-yé mû'min bow-ad
rôy-é ô z-âlûdagê îmin bow-ad

yâr âyîn-ast jân-râ dar Hazan
dar rokh-é âyîna ay jân dam ma-zan

tâ na-pôsh-ad rôy-é khwad-râ dar dam-at
dam forô khwordan be-bây-ad har dam-at

kam ze-khâk-î, chûn-ke khâkê yâr yâft
az bahârî Sad hazâr anwâr yâft

ân derakhtê k-ô shaw-ad bâ yâr joft
az hawây-é khwosh ze-sar tâ pâ shekoft

35 dar khazân chûn dîd ô yâr-é khilâf
dar kashîd ô rô-wo sar zêr-é liHâf

goft yâr-é bad balâ-âshoftan-ast
chûn-ke ô âmad Tarîq-am khoftan-ast

pas be-khosp-am bâsh-am az aSHâb-é kahf
beh ze-daqyânûs ân maHbûs-é lahf

yaqZa-shân maSrûf-é daqyânûs bûd
khwâb-eshân sarmâya-yé nâmûs bûd

khwâb bêdarî-st, chûn bâ dânesh-ast
wây-é bêdârê ke bâ nâ-dân neshast

40 chûn-ke zâgh-ân khayma bar bahman zad-and
bolbol-ân penhân shod-and-o tan zad-and

z-ân-ke bê-gol-zâr bolbol khâmosh-ast
ghaybat-é khworshêd bêdârî kosh-ast

âftâb-â tark-é în gol-shan kon-î
tâ ke taHta 'l-'arZ-râ rôshan kon-î

âftâb-é ma`rifat-râ naql nêst
mashriq-é ô ghayr-é jân-o `aql nêst

khâSa khworshêd-é kamâlê k-ân sarê-st
rôz-o shab kerdâr-é ô rôshan-garê-st

45 maTla`i shams ây gar iskandar-î
ba`d az ân har jâ raw-î nêkô-far-î

bad az ân har jâ raw-î mashriq shaw-ad
sharq-hâ bar maghrib-at `âshiq shaw-ad

Hiss-é khuffâsh-at sôy-é maghrib dawân
Hiss-é dur-pâsh-at sôy-é mashriq rawân

râh-é His râh-é khar-ân-ast ay sowâr
ay khar-ân-râ tô muzâHim, sharm dâr

panj Hissê hast joz în panj His
ân chô zarr-é sorkh-o în His-hâ chô mes

50 andar ân bâzâr k-ahl-é muHshar-and
Hiss-é mes-râ chûn His-é zar kay khar-and?

Hiss-é abdân qût-é Zulmat mê-khwor-ad
Hiss-é jân az âftâbê mê-cher-ad

ay be-borda rakht-é His-hâ sôy-é ghayb
dast chûn mûsà berûn âwar ze-jayb

ay Sifât-at âftâb-é ma`rifat
w-âftâb-é charkh band-é yak Sifat

gâh khworshêdê-î-wo gah daryâ shaw-î
gâh kôh-é qâf-wo gah `anqâ shaw-î

55 tô na în bâsh-î na ân dar Zât-é khwêsh
ay fozûn az wahm-hâ w-az bêsh bêsh

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)