The Chains of Craziness

Mathnawi II: 1372-1385

1372 (Regardless of) whether you are straight1 or crooked, keep
crawling2 toward Him. Don't crawl backwards.3

Although there may be danger to (your) life in the presence of
kings,4 nevertheless, those with (strong) aspiration cannot tolerate
(being distant) from Him.5

Since the King is more sweet than sugar, it is more delightful that
(your) life should go6 to that sweetness.

1375 O blamer,7 may you have safety! (And) O seeker of safety,
you have weak handles.8

My soul is a furnace (and) is happy with the fire. For the furnace, it
(is) sufficient that it is the house for the fire.

In regard to love, there is something burning9 -- just like the
furnace. Whoever is blind to this10 is not a "furnace."

When your provision becomes a provision without (need) of
(worldly) provision,11 you will find everlasting life, and death
will go (away).12

(And) when your longing sorrow obtains increasing joy,13 the
garden of your soul will obtain roses and lilies.

1380 That which is frightening to others is your safety.14 Because
of the river, the duck (is) strong, but the domestic hen15 (is) weak
(and helpless).16

O doctor! I've become crazy again.17 O beloved! I've become
melancholy (from yearning).

The rings of Your chain possess (various) manners.18 Every
single ring gives a different (kind of) craziness.19

The gift of every ring is a different way (of acting)20 -- so I
have a different (kind of) craziness every moment.21

Therefore, "craziness is of (various) modes" has become a
proverb22 -- especially in (regard to) the chains of this Glorious

1385 A craziness such as this has broken (my) shackles,24 so that
all the crazy people25 will offer me advice.

--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" (, 10/26/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (1372) whether you are straight: Nicholson translated, "Whether
you be straight (righteous)..." Also means upright, just, good,
truthful, sincere.

2. (1372) keep crawling: this word means to make short sliding
movements on one's bottom, as do small children and cripples.

3. (1372) Don't crawl backwards: "Don't crawl backwards toward the
body.... not toward the world, ego [nafs], and desires. When you
incline toward Him, you will be acting rightly and you will
discover the stage of true companionship [SuHbat-é Haqîqî] (with
God)." (Translated here from a Persian translation of Anqaravi's
17th century Turkish commentary on the Mathnawi)

4. (1373) there may be danger to (your) life in the presence of kings:
means that a king could become unpredictably infuriated by
someone and order that he be beheaded.

5. (1373) those with (strong) aspiration cannot tolerate (being distant)
from Him: means that the lovers of God, while having great
reverential awe toward God [taqwà-- sometimes translated as "fear
of God"], cannot resist their overpowering yearning and attraction
to ever greater nearness to the Lord of Majesty. "But those who
have found the stage of love (for God) and who possess strong
spiritual determination cannot abstain from [approaching closer to]
the Real King. And they never fear for their own lives and cannot
bear distance from His Presence." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

6. (1374) it is more delightful that (your) life should go: Nicholson
translated, "'tis better that life should go (as a sacrifice)..." "It
means: "In regard to the True King [= God], Who is symbolized by
the sweetest sugar and enjoyment, if one completely sacrifices
(his) life to the sweetness and enjoyment of (Divine) Beauty, it will
become more delightful and exquisite, and he will discover the
stage of becoming the essence of enjoyment and (of becoming)
pure sweetness." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

7. (1375) O blamer: Nicholson translated, "O blamer (of lovers)." "(It
means), O you who blame the lovers [= of God], may you be safe."
(Anqaravi, Commentary) The implication here is that those who
blame, criticize, accuse, revile the true lovers of God will face the
consequences of Divine Justice. There is also a word play between
"blame" [malâmat] and "safety" [salâmat].

8. (1375) you have weak handles: in the oldest manuscript of the
Mathnawi, a variant to this was added in the margin. Nicholson
commented that Anqaravi's commentary had this variant, "which
gives poor rhyme." (Commentary) However, Nicholson did not
mention that Anqaravi also wrote about the above reading, which
he interpreted: "O seeker of safety, you yourself are a weak rope,
for you have been clutching at a very weak rope. But those lovers
who have declared renunciation of safety have grasped 'the most
trustworthy handhold' [= a phrase from Qur'an 2:256] While
Anqaravi wrote that the word "`urà" is said to mean a rope,
Nicholson wrote that it literally means "stays or handles"
(footnote) and he translated, "O seeker of safety, thou art infirm."
The meaning here is that the one who seeks safety (apart from true
safety in God's Grace) is in danger of falling and becoming broken
and injured.

9. (1377) something burning [sôzîdanê-st]: "literally, 'there is a
burning', i.e. the true lover is consumed in the fire of Divine Love.
Súzídaní, meaning 'that which is, or ought, to be burned', has yá-yi
ma`rúf [=the "î" of an abstract noun] and therefore would not make
a correct rhyme in this verse." (Nicholson, Commentary) "It means
that, in the same manner that a furnace is the place for fire, and it
burns night and day, the lover is also necessarily like a furnace,
burning in the fire of love..." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

10. (1377) Whoever is blind to this: a word play between "furnace"
[kûra] and "blind" [kûr].

11. (1378) a provision without (need) of (worldly) provision: "i.e. faqr
ú faná" [= spiritual poverty and mystical annihilation]. (Nicholson,
Commentary) The word for "provision" [barg] means provision for
a soldier, traveller, or guest; it also means riches or wealth.
However, its literal meaning is "leaf." Nicholson translated this
same phrase in I: 2237-- "the provision of leaflessness (spiritual
poverty)." And he explained: "Barg-i bí bargí denotes the grace of
spiritual poverty and selflessness, and the riches which God
bestows on the spiritually poor. Rúmí is fond of this phrase..."
(Commentary) "It means: When your strength and food has
become powerlessness and lack of provision, then your soul will
obtain purity by means of helplessness and nothingness, and it will
take pleasure from spiritual poverty [faqr] and annihilation
[fanâ].... and your soul will always travel in the world of
everlastingness." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

12. (1378) and death will go (away): there is a word play between
"provision" [barg] and "death" [marg].

13. (1379) when your longing sorrow obtains increasing joy:
Nicholson translated, "When the pain (of love) has begun to
increase your (spiritual) joy..." "Just as your sorrow and pain have
become the cause of your (spiritual) enjoyment, and have begun to
increase your joy and happiness, the garden of your soul will
become filled with roses and lilies. It means that you will have
reached the stage in which your soul will be surrounded by
spiritual states and lordly secrets [asrâr-é rabbânî]." (Anqaravi,

14. (1380) That which is frightening to others is your safety:
Nicholson translated, "That which is the dread of others is your
safety (safeguard)."

15. (1380) the domestic hen: "The duck represents the Divine spirit in
man, while the hen is an emblem of his carnal nature." (Nicholson,
Commentary) "It is about the issues and questions regarding the
(various) kinds of trials and misfortunes and strict discipline in the
path of God-- which the multitude of men are afraid of.... But the
lovers, like a water bird, become strong in facing the sea of trials
and misfortunes. And their spirits and hearts acquire strength and
power from those sorrows." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

16. (1380) is weak (and helpless): "The multitude of men... quickly
become weak and powerless, and die of grief and pain." (Anqaravi,

17. (1381) I've become crazy again: "The connection of this verse with
its previous verse is this:.... the followers of ego and the intellect,
who resemble the domestic hen in weakness, are afraid of this: that
they might lose control of intellect and understanding, and become
crazy.... Therefore in this connection, Mawlana [Rumi] negates the
partial intellect from himself-- by means of love for God-- and
goes into craziness." (Anqaravi, Commentary) Here, Anqaravi
interprets that Rumi became stronger by the torrent of the river,
like a duck, and became drowned in the ocean of love. Therefore,
his partial intellect became negated (the very thing feared most by
the multitude of people). The partial intellect is the
particularization of the Universal Intellect, or Universal Reason.

18. (1382) The rings of Your chain possess (various) manners: "The
intended meaning of the chain is the Divine Attributes. Because
every Divine Attribute requires another Attribute [to be connected
to]." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

19. (1382) Every single ring gives a different (kind of) craziness: "The
mystic's reason is distraught by the infinite variety of aspects in
which God reveals Himself, each aspect forming, as it were, a new
link in the chain that enthrals him." (Nicholson, Commentary) "(It
means): 'O True Beloved,... every Attribute of Your Attributes
gives a different kind of craziness.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)
Crazy people used to be bound by chains to protect them from
harming themselves or others.

20. (1383) The gift of every ring is a different way (of acting): "i.e.
diverse mystical experiences." (Nicholson, Commentary)

21. (1383) I have a different (kind of) craziness every moment: "(It
means): 'For me, therefore, a kind of veil for (my) intellect occurs
every moment because of those Attributes. Since the ecstasy of
that Attribute covers and surrounds my intellect.'" (Anqaravi,

22. (1384) "craziness is of (various) modes" has become a proverb:
"Among the lovers (of God) it has become an expression about
being hidden by love and being drowned by (spiritual) yearning."
(Anqaravi, Commentary) "Here the proverb al-junúnu funún is
applied to spiritual love as the concomitant of gnosis [= mystical
knowledge]. In view of the following Story, it may be mentioned
that 'Dú 'l-Nún [=the sufi Master described, in the story which
immediately follows, as becoming crazed by love] took a very
important step in the development of Súfism by distinguishing the
mystic's knowledge of God (ma`rifah) from traditional or
intellectual knowledge (`ilm) and by connecting the former with
love of God (mahabbah)'." (Nicholson, Commentary)

22. (1384) Glorious Emperor [mîr-é ajal]: means God. Nicholson
translated, "this most glorious Prince."

24. (1385) has broken (my) shackles: Nicholson translated, "has
broken the bonds (of my reason)..." "(It means): 'My craziness is
such that it has broken the shackles of (my) intellect.'" (Anqaravi,

25. (1385) the crazy people: "i.e. the vulgar, who are devoid of reason
(`aql-i ma`ád) and ignorant of the Truth. Cf. the Stoic [= an ancient
Greek and Roman school of thought} doctrine that every fool is
mad." (Nicholson, Commentary)


1372 gar tô bâsh-î râst w-ar bâsh-î tô kazh
pêsh-tar mê-ghazh ba-dô, wâ-pas ma-ghazh

pêsh-é shâh-ân gar khaTar bâsh-ad ba-jân
lêk na-sh'kêb-and az-ô bâ-himmat-ân

shâh chûn shîrîn-tar az shakkar bow-ad
jân ba-shîrînî raw-ad khwash-tar bow-ad

1375 ay malâmat-gar salâmat mar to-râ
ay salâmat-jô tow-î wâhî 'l-`urà

jân-é man kûra-st bâ âtesh khwash-ast
kûra-râ în bas ke khâna-yé âtash-ast

ham-chô kûra `ishq-râ sôzîdanê-st
har ke ô z-în kûr bâsh-ad kûra nêst

barg-é bê-bargî to-râ chûn barg shod
jân-é bâqî yâft-î-wo marg shod

chûn to-râ gham shâdî-afzûdan gereft
rawZa-yé jân-at gol-o sûsan gereft

1380 ân-che khawf-é dîgar-ân, ân amn-é to-st
baT qawî az baHr-o morgh-é khana sost

bâz dêwâna shod-am man ay Tabîb
bâz sawdâyî shod-am man ay Habîb

Halqa-hây-é silsila-yé tô Zû funûn
har yakê Halqa deh-ad dîgar junûn

dâd-é har Halqa funûnê dîgar-ast
pas ma-râ har dam junûnê dîgar-ast

pas funûn bâsh-ad junûn, în shod maSal
khâSa dar zanjîr-é în mîr-é ajal

1385 ân-chon-ân dêwânagî be-g'sest band
ke hama dêwân-agân pand-am deh-and

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)