What Is the Benefit of This Existence? (part two)

Mathnawi II: 1073-1105

1073 The beauty of Joseph1 (was) a benefit for a (whole)
world, even though it was vain and excessive to (his)

The melodies of a David2 were so beloved (to those who
recognized him as a prophet), but were (no more than) noise
(produced) from wood to (someone) deprived (of faith).3

1075 The water of the Nile (river) was greater (in delight)
than the Water of Life,4 but it was (no more than) blood to
(one) deprived (of faith) and a denier.5

Martyrdom is (true) life to the believer,6 (yet) it is
death and deterioration to the hypocrite.7

Speak (up and say) what single favor is there in the
world from which some group are not deprived.

Cattle and donkeys have no benefit in (eating) sugar.
Every soul has a different (kind of) food.8

But if that food is (presented) by chance to it,9 then
giving admonishing advice is the (appropriate) correction
for it.

1080 (For example), if a person has love for (eating) clay
because of sickness,10 even though he thinks that it is
itself his (suitable) food,

He has forgotten the original food (suitable for him)
(and) has brought (his) face toward the food of sickness.

(Since) he has abandoned sweet drink, he has consumed
poison (and) made the food of sickness (as nourishing in his
view) as fat.

The Light of God is the original food for mankind, (and)
animal food is (actually) not worthy of him.11

But because of sickness, (the craving of his) heart has
fallen into this (belief) that day and night his (proper)
food is from this (material) water and clay.12

1085 (And he has become) sallow-faced, weak of legs, and
infirm of heart.13 Where is the food (spoken) of (in the
verse), "By the Heavens, full of (starry) paths"?14

That is the food of the elect ones of (Divine)
good-fortune,15 the eating of which is without (need of)
throat or (physical) instrument.

The food of the sun is from the light of the Throne,16
(but the food) for the envious and demonic is from the
"smoke" of the carpet (of the material world).17

God said about (the souls of) the martyrs, "they are
nourished."18 (And) there is no mouth nor dish (needed) for
(consuming) that food.

The heart eats a (type of) food from (the presence of)
every companion. (Likewise), the heart draws a (type of)
pleasure from every (type of) knowledge.19

1090 The form of every human being is like a cup, (and only)
the (spiritual) eye is endowed with the perception (to see
anything) about his inward reality.

You are consuming something from meeting anyone, and you
draw something from association with any companion.

When a conjunction has occurred between a planet (and
another) planet, the effect suitable for both is surely

When the joining of a man and a woman (has occurred), a
human being is generated. And from the association of rock
and iron, sparks occur.

And from the connection of earth with rainfalls, fruits,
green plants, and fragrant herbs (are produced).

1095 From the association of (beautiful) green (places) with
man,21 joyfulness of heart, freedom from any sorrow, and
happiness (result).

And from the joining of happiness with our souls, our
(natural) goodness and kindness (are generated).22

Our bodies become able to consume (food and drink) when
our desire attains fulfillment from relaxation and

(Healthy) redness of face is from the connection of
blood (underneath the skin). (And) blood is from the
beautiful scarlet red quality of the sun.23

Red is the best of colors, is from the sun, and reaches
(us) from it.

1100 Any land which has become associated with (the
influence of) Saturn has become salty and is not the place
for planting (crops).

Power comes into action from agreement,24 like the
association of the Devil with the people of hypocrisy.25

These true spiritual meanings, (which are) from the
ninth heaven,26 (have) grandeur and magnificence without (any
need of worldly) magnificence.

Regarding the (physical) creation, (its) magnificence is
borrowed. (But) regarding the (Divine) Command, (its)
grandeur and magnificence is essential.27

For the sake of (worldly) magnificence, (people) endure
degradation and humiliation;28 in hope of greatness (of
position and power), they are happy in being despised.

1105 In hope of the great honor of ten days (full) of
irritation,29 they have made their necks (thin) as a spindle
because of anguish.

--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)
Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (yahoogroups.com), 2/21/02

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (1073) The beauty of Joseph: refers to the Qur'anic
story of Joseph and the jealousy of his brothers. Joseph is
viewed in Islamic tradition as one of the Prophets of God,
as well as being extraordinarily good-looking (see Qur'an

2. (1074) The melodies of a David: refers to David (viewed
as a Prophet in Islam) and his famous Psalms (mentioned in
the Qur'an as one of the previous books of Divine
revelation, together with Torah and the Gospel). He is
viewed, in Islamic tradition, as singing the praises of God
(see Qur'an 34:10; 38:18; 21:79).

3. (1074) to (one) deprived (of faith): Nicholson
translated, "to the interdicted (unbeliever)." "(It means),
'The melodies of Hazrat-i Da'ood [= David]-- may the peace
(of God) be upon him, which were of a quality (that made
them) held dear and famous. But for the one who was denying
that revered (Prophet) and who was deprived (of faith), they
were similar to (noise produced by) wood.'" (Anqaravi, the
17th century Turkish commentator, translated here into
English from a Persian translation)

4. (1075) The water of the Nile (river) was greater (in
delight) than the Water of Life: Nicholson translated, "was
superior to..." "Another similitude: The water of the Nile
was greater in enjoyment than the Water of Life." (Anqaravi,
Commentary) According to Islamic legend, one who is able to
find and sip from the Water of Life will be granted
immortality. According to the Qur'an (and the Torah), the
water of the Nile River was good when the children of Israel
drank from it, but became blood when the Egyptian followers
of Pharaoh attempted to do so.

5. (1075) but it was (no more than) blood to (one) deprived
(of faith) and a denier: "Among the plagues sent upon the
people of Pharaoh (Qur. VII 130) was the plague of blood, so
that whenever an Egyptian would drink water, it turned to
blood in his mouth. The story is handled characteristically
by Rúmí in Book IV, 3431 foll." (Nicholson, Commentary)

6. (1076) Martyrdom is (true) life to the believer: In
Islam, a true believer [mû'min] who is a martyr [shahîd]
attains a blessed state in the afterlife (prior to the
Resurrection). Martyrs are those killed in defensive battle
against an invading and oppressive army of non-Muslims, as
well as those killed in plagues. "Permission (to fight is
given from God) for those who have been wronged-- and truly
God is the All-Powerful for helping them-- (and they are)
those who have been driven from their homes (in a manner)
not right, (for no reason) other than that they said, 'Our
Lord is God.'" (Qur'an 22:40) Martyrdom is only for those
who die when fighting a defensive battle and who conform to
the Islamic laws for engaging in warfare (which forbid the
killing of innocent non-combatants such as women, children,
and the elderly; and which forbid the destroying of orchards
and crops, poisoning wells, and other kinds of spoliation of
the lands of the enemy).

7. (1076) the hypocrite [munâfiq]: In the Qur'an,
hypocrites (those who remain polytheists and reject the One
True God, while pretending to be believers) are considered
more dangerous to Islam than the oppressive pagans.
Hypocrites are viewed as cowards who fear death, who will
not fight to defend the survival of Islam (Qur'an 3:167-68),
and will be cursed by God (9: 68)

8. (1078) Every soul has a different (kind of) food:
"Therefore the nourishment and food of the people of
salvation is spiritual and an enjoyable (form of) mystical
knowledge. And the food of the people (who are) led astray
is like (that of) cattle and donkeys-- bodily food and
selfish cravings [shahwât-é nafsânî]." (Anqaravi,

9. (1079) if that food is (presented) by chance to it:
Nicholson translated, "accidental to it (and not according
to its real nature)..."

10. (1080) if a person has love for (eating) clay because of
sickness: means due to an illness (understood nowadays as
some kind of mineral deficiency). Since Rumi mocks
"clay-eaters" elsewhere in the Mathnawi, this may include
those who began eating clay during a state of illness, but
continued eating it after developing an acquired attachment
to its taste.

11. (1083) The Light of God is the original food for
mankind, (and) animal food is (actually) not worthy of him:
refers to the condition of humanity before the Fall from the
Garden of Paradise. This is also the condition (to some
extent) for some of the saints, as well as the future
condition of the inhabitants of Paradise after the
Resurrection and the Day of Judgment.

Nicholson referred, here, to Mathnawi V: 288 [=
translated by him: "Although that (Light) is the food of the
spirit and the (spiritual) sight..."] and V: 1748-49 [= "the
Food of God"]. And he also said: "The 'Light of God' is
Universal Reason." (Commentary)

12. (1084) from this (material) water and clay: an idiom
meaning something physical and related to the body, since
Adam's body was created out of water and clay (Qur'an 25:54;

13. (1085) infirm of heart: Nicholson translated,

14. (1085) Where is the food (spoken) of (in the verse),
"By the Heavens, full of (starry) paths [wa 's-samâ Zâti
'l-Hubuk]": a direct quotation of the Arabic from Qur'an
51:7. It means the Heavenly food of the Light of God-- as
manifested by the shining planets. "Qur. LI 7, explained by
Najmu'ddín al-Kubrà [= a sufi master, died in 1221] as 'the
heaven of the heart (qalb) which is possessed of the ways
that lead to God'." (Nicholson, Commentary)

15. (1086) the elect ones of (Divine) good-fortune:
Nicholson translated, "the chosen ones of the (Divine)

16. (1087) The food of the sun is from the light of the
Throne: Nicholson translated, "The food of the (spiritual)
sun is (derived) from the light of the (celestial)
Throne..." And he explained: "i.e. the prophet or saint."

17. (1087) (but the food) for the envious and demonic is
from the "smoke": According to the Qur'an, the jinn (or
genies) are made from "smokeless fire" (55:15). In the last
two chapters of the Qur'an are prayers for seeking
protection from the "evil of the envious one when he acts
enviously" (113:5) and from "the evil of "the whisperer...
who whispers (evil) within the hearts of mankind among the
jinn and human beings" (114: 4-6)

18. (1088) God said about (the souls of) the martyrs, "they
are nourished [yurzaqûn]": Nicholson translated, "God said
concerning the martyrs, 'they are (alive with their Lord)
receiving sustenance.'" This refers to Qur'an 3:169: "Don't
consider those who are killed in the way of God as dead.
Rather, they live (and) are nourished [yurzaqûn] in the
presence of their Sustaining Lord." Nicholson referred,
here, to his note on Mathnawi I: 3872: "The poet, however,
is not thinking of Moslems who have fallen in battle, but of
mystics who have died to self for God's sake. These are the
real martyrs." (Commentary)

"The martyrs have been given sustenance in the presence
of their Sustaining Lord, from the favor which the Lord Most
High has given to them from His Grace. At the time when they
are full of joy and happiness, they are 'eating and
drinking.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

19. (1089) the heart is drawing a (type of) pleasure from
every (type of) knowledge: Nicholson later corrected his
translation to, "the heart is getting a (particular)
excellence from every single (kind of) knowledge." (from:
"every single (piece of) knowledge."

20. (1092) When a conjunction has occurred between a planet
(and another) planet, the effect suitable for both is surely
generated: "... such as (producing) good fortune, bad luck,
or 'obliteration' (when hidden by apparent closeness to the
sun)." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

Although Rumi sometimes refers in the Mathnawi to
astrological effects upon the earth as if they are a
reality, it is important to keep in mind that, as a poet, he
uses all kinds of images in a poetic and metaphorical way.
And as a Muslim, he certainly believed that all power to
effect events on earth originates from the Command of God
(and perhaps viewed the stars and planets as intermediaries
of the Divine Will).

21. (1095) from the association of (beautiful) green
(places) with man: "Because if the son of Adam has a green
and watery viewing place and is near greenery and water, he
obtains happiness of heart." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

22. (1096) our (natural) goodness and kindness (are
generated): Nicholson later changed his translation, to "our
beauty and beneficence" (from, "our goodness and

23. (1098) (Healthy) redness of face is from the connection
of blood (underneath the skin). (And) blood is from the
beautiful scarlet red quality of the sun: "In other words,
by means of the heat of the sun, blood manifests (through)
movement and predominance (just under the skin) by means of
the heat of the sun and becomes the cause of (healthy)
redness of the face." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

24. (1101) Power comes into action from agreement: "I.e.
what is potential becomes actual." (Nicholson, Footnote)

25. (1101) like the association of the Devil with the people
of hypocrisy: See note above on line 1076.

26. (1102) the ninth heaven: refers to the most lofty of the
concentric spheres believed to surround the earth (the
lowest is the moon, followed by Mercury, Venus, the Sun,
Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the sphere of the constellations, and
the Divine Throne. "...i.e. the `Arsh [= the level of the
Divine Throne], which Súfís identify with the Divine
consciousness wherein the potentialities of all things are
eternally latent." (Nicholson, Commentary)

27. (1103) (But) regarding the (Divine) Command, (its)
grandeur and magnificence is essential: Nicholson
translated, "the pomp and grandeur belonging to the (world
of) Command is an essential thing." And he explained the
meaning of "the (world of) Command": "The supersensible
world." (Footnote) And he explained further: "amr = `álamu
'l-amr [= Command equals the world of Command], i.e. the
spiritual world brought into existence immediately and
directly, without space and time, by the Divine fiat (kun)
[= "Be! And it is" (Qur'an 2:117)].... The '(world of)
creation' (al-khalq) and the '(world of) command' (al-amr)
are opposed to each other in Qur. VII 52." [= "Do not the
creation and the command (to govern it) belong to Him?"
(Qur'an 7: 54)] (Commentary)

"...(its) grandeur and magnificence: in other words, it
is essentially the (magnificent) 'pavilion' and dwelling
place of the World of Command [`âlam-é amr] and the World of
Spirits [`âlam-é arwâH]." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

28. (1104) For the sake of (worldly) grandeur and
magnificence, (people) endure degradation and humiliation:
it means that, out of ambition and greed, people will endure
humiliating treatment from those who have power over them in
hopes of replacing them and living in their magnificent
palaces some day.

29. (1105) the great honor of ten days (full) of irritation:
in other words, once someone comes briefly into power over
others, he experiences much annoyance and little
satisfaction: such as having to deal with resistance to his
commands, envious hatred, etc.


1073 Husn-é yûsuf `âlamê-râ fâyida
gar-che bar ikhwân `abaS bod zâyida

laHn-é dâwudê chon-ân maHbûb bûd
lêk bar maHrûm bâng-é chûb bûd

1075 âb-é nîl az âb-é Haywân bod fozûn
lêk bar maHrûm-o munkir bûd khûn

hast bar mû'min shahîdî zendagî
bar munâfiq mordan-ast-o zhendagî

chî-st dar `âlam be-gô yak ni`matê
ke na-maHrûm-and az way ummatê?

gâw-o khar-râ fâyida che dar shakar
hast har jân-râ yakê qûtê degar

lêk gar ân qût bar way `âriZî-st
pas naSîHat-kardan ô-râ râyiZî-st

1080 chûn kasê k-ô az maraZ gel dâsht dôst
gar-che pendâr-ad ke ân khwad qût-é ô-st

qût-é aSlî-râ farâmosh karda-ast
rôy dar qût-é maraZ âwarda-ast

nôsh-râ be-g'Zâshta sam khwarda-ast
qût-é `illat-râ chô charbesh karda-ast

qût-é aSliy-é bashar nûr-é khodâ-st
qût-é Haywânî mar-ô-râ nâ-sazâ-st

lêk az `illat dar-în oftâd del
ke khward-é ô rôz-o shab z-în âb-o gel

1085 rôy-zard-o pây-sost-o del-sabok
kô ghaZây-é wa 's-samâ Zâti 'l-Hubuk

ân ghaZây-é khâSa-g-ân-é dawlat-ast
khwardan-é ân bê-golô-wo âlat-ast

shod ghaZây-é âftâb az nûr-é `arsh
mar Hasûd-o dêw-râ az dûd-é farsh

dar shahîd-ân yurzaqûn farmûd Haq
ân ghaZâ-râ nê dahân bod nê Tabaq

del ze-har yârê ghaZâyê mê-khwar-ad
del ze-har `ilmê Safâyê mê-bar-ad

1090 Sûrat-é har âdamê chûn kâsa'ê-st
chashm az ma`niy-é ô Hassâsa'ê-st

az liqây-é har kasê chêzê khwar-î
w-az qirân-é har qarîn chêzê bar-î

chûn setâra bâ setâra shod qarîn
lâyiq-é har dô aSar zây-ad yaqîn

chûn qirân-é mard-o zan zây-ad bashar
w-az qirân-é sang-o âhan shod sharar

w-az qirân-é khâk bâ bârân-hâ
mêwa-hâ-wo sabza-wo rayHân-hâ

1095 w-az qirân-é sabza-hâ bâ âdamî
del-khwashî-wo bê-ghammî-wo khorramî

w-az qirân-é khurramî bâ jân-é mâ
mê be-zây-ad khwobî-wo iHsân-é mâ

qâbil-é khwardan shaw-ad ijsâm-é mâ
chûn bar-ây-ad az tafarruj kâm-é mâ

sorkh-rôyî az qirân-é khûn bow-ad
khûn ze-khworshêd-é khwash-é gol-gûn bow-ad

beh-tarîn-é rang-hâ sorkhî bow-ad
w-ân ze-khworshêd-ast-o az way mê-ras-ad

1100 har zamînê k-ân qarîn shod bâ zuHal
shôra gasht-o kasht-râ na-b'w-ad maHal

quwwat andar fa`l ây-ad z-ittifâq
chûn qirân-é dêw bâ ahl-é nifâq

în ma`âniy-é râst az charkh-é nohom
bê-hama Tâq-o Torom Tâq-o Torom

khalq-râ Tâq-o Torom `âriyyat-ast
amr-râ Tâq-o Torom mâhiyyat-ast

az pay-é Tâq-o Torom khwâri kash-and
bar omêd-é `izz dar khwârî khwash-and

1105 bar omêd-é `izz-é dah-rôza-yé khodûk
gardan-é khwad karda-and az gham chô dûk

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)