Moses and the Shepherd (part three)

Mathnawi II: 1765-1771

1765 For lovers, there is a conflagration1 every moment.
There are no taxes (imposed) on a ruined village.2

If (the lover) speaks wrongly,3 don't call him4 a
sinner. If the martyr is bloody, don't wash him.5

For martyrs, blood is better than (being washed by)
water. This fault (of being bloody) is better than a hundred
correct actions.6

Inside the Ka`ba, there is no rule for (determining) the
prayer direction.7 (And) there's no regret if the diver has
no snow shoes.

Don't seek guidance from those who are drunk. Why should
you command those with garments torn (from ecstasy)8 to mend

1770 The sect of Love (of God) is distinct from all
religions; the sect and doctrine of the lovers is God

1771 If the ruby doesn't have an (engraved) seal, there's no
worry.10 In the sea of sorrow, Love is not sorrowful.11

--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" (, 2/8/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (1765) there is a conflagration: Nicholson translated,
"there is a burning (which consumes them)..." He referred to
the (Mathnawi) verses (which he translated), "My soul is a
furnace: it is happy with the fire: 'tis enough for the
furnace that it is the fire's house. For Love, as (for) the
furnace, there is something to be burned: any one that is
blind to this is not a furnace." (II: 1376-77) "(It means),
'For lovers there is a burning every moment in the fire of
love....'" (translated hear from a Persian translation of
the famous 16th century Turkish commentary on the
Mathnawi/Masnavi by Anqaravi)

2. (1765) There are no taxes (imposed) on a ruined village:
"The distraught lover of God is not liable to the penalties
inflicted on those who fail to show a proper respect for
religious forms and observances. Abú Yazíd al-Bistámí [=
sufi master, died 875], on being questioned concerning
gnosis (ma`rifah), quoted Qur. XXVII 34, 'Lo, kings, when
they enter a city, ruin it and abase the mighty men of its
people', meaning that when gnosis [= mystical knowledge]
enters the heart it consumes and casts out everything besides."
(Commentary) "It means that the observance of polite manners
is not expected from the devastated lover." (Anqaravi,

3. (1766) If (the lover) speaks wrongly: means speaking
imperfectly due to his emotional or mystical state while

4. (1766) don't call him: the earliest manuscript of the
Mathnawi has here, "wa-râ... ma-gô" instead of the usual

5. (1766) don't wash him: refers to the Islamic requirement
for the corpses of Muslims to be washed with water prior to
burial. However, this is not to be done in the case of
martyrs (killed in combat), since the blood on their bodies
is considered an honor and a blessing, not a defilement. The
meaning here is: just as being buried covered with blood is
not a wrong burial for a martyr, the speech of a lover of
God is not wrong if it appears "covered with errors."
Nicholson pointed out that the earliest manuscript of the
Mathnawi has "...the martyr, don't wash him" (in contrast to
the text he translated as "do not wash (those who are)
martyrs"). "The meaning of this is... Since the lover is the
martyr of the sword of love, therefore one should not
compare his fault with the faults (of others), according to
reason." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

6. (1767) better than a hundred correct actions: Nicholson
translated, "is better than a hundred right actions (of
another)." "A mistake which appears from the lovers (of God)
is better than a hundred righteous actions." (Anqaravi,

7. (1768) Inside the Ka'ba, there is no rule for
(determining) the prayer direction: the Ka'ba is the prayer
direction [qibla] for all Muslims wherever they are in the
world. However, when inside the Ka'ba (which is empty,
except for some hanging lamps and a ladder to the roof)
there is no rule and one can pray facing any direction one
wishes. The meaning here is that there is no fixed rule for
proper conduct for one of God's lovers who is consumed and
drunk with love for God. "To the mystic in union with God
external forms are as useless as rules for finding the
qiblah to a Moslem inside the Ka'bah, or as snowshoes (which
prevent sinking) to a diver submerged in the sea."
(Nicholson, Commentary) "Therefore the lovers of God are
persons who have become united with the Ka'ba of Truth and
in accordance with (the verse), 'Whichever way you turn,
there is the Face of God.'" [Qur'an 2: 115] (Anqaravi,

8. (1769) those with garments torn (from ecstasy): "(It
means), the lovers who have torn the robe of the intellect
and understanding." (Anqaravi, Commentary) This refers to
dervishes who have gathered together for mystical prayer and
dance [samâ`] and have torn their cloaks or the tops of
their shirts or outer cloaks when in an ecstatic state of
consciousness. There is no public nudity in Islam. Often,
dervishes would eagerly grab pieces on the ground from one
of their member's torn cloak, to patch onto their cloaks (as
a blessing). The meaning here is, "Don't expect an ecstatic
dervish, drunk with love of God, to be "sober" enough to
mend what he has ripped apart."

9. (1770) The sect of Love (of God) is distinct from all
religions; the sect and doctrine of the lovers is God
(alone): Nicholson translated, "The religion of Love is
apart from all religions: for lovers, the (only) religion
and creed is-- God." W. C. Chittick translated more
accurately, "Love's creed is separate from all religions:
The creed and denomination of lovers is God." ("The Sufi
Path of Love: the Spiritual Teachings of Rumi," 1983, p.
213) Translating the word "millat" as "religion" in the two
cases here is somewhat misleading, because Rumi has used
this term five times in the Mathnawi (out of a total of
eleven occurrences) to refer to the "seventy-two sects"
which divide and weaken Islam. "According to the celebrated
Hadíth the Prophet predicted that the Moslems would be
divided into 73 sects of which only one would enter
Paradise..." (Nicholson, Commentary) Rumi said (as
translated by Nicholson): "Love hath estrangement with (is a
stranger to) the two worlds [= this world and the
Hereafter]: in it are two-and-seventy madnesses. It is
exceedingly hidden, and (only) its bewilderment is manifest:
the soul of the spiritual sultans is pining for it. Its
religion [kêsh] is other than (that of) the two-and-seventy
sects [= millat]: beside it the throne of kings is (but) a
splint-bandage. At the time of the samá` [= ecstatic
movement and dancing to music] Love's minstrel strikes up
this (strain): 'Servitude is chains and lordship headache.'
Then what is Love? The Sea of Not-being: there the foot of
the intellect is shattered" (III: 4719-23).

A study of Rumi's use of the two key words in the
present line, which Nicholson translated as "religion"
[millat, maZhab], shows that Rumi mainly uses them to refer
to various competing doctrinal schools within Islam (such as
advocates of extreme necessitarianism/fatalism, extreme free
will, scholastic rationalism, as well as the four schools of
Sunni Islamic law). Like the early sufi woman mystic, Rabi`a
al-`Adawiyya (died around 796-801) [who prayed, as
translated by Nicholson: "O God, if I worship Thee for fear
of Hell, burn me in Hell, and if I worship Thee in hope of
Paradise, exclude me from paradise; but if I worship Thee
for Thy own sake, grudge me not Thy everlasting beauty."],
Rumi taught that the essence of worship is constant devotion
and love for God alone. He called this "the sect of Love"
[maZhab-é `ishq: Quatrain 14], "the sect of the lovers"
[maZhab-é `ushshâq: Ode 232, line 2610], "the school of
Love" [madrasa-yé `ishq: Ode 429, line 4534]. However, he
did not intend "the sect of Love" to mean a religion or sect
separate from Islam, but as the pure essence of Muslim
worship of God-- and of a different quality from the
externals of Islamic worship. He said, "What is the
ascension [mi`râj] to Heaven? This being nothing [nêstî].
For the lovers (of God), the sect [maZhab] and religion
[dîn] is being annihilated of self [nêstî]." (Mathnawi VI:

In the present line, Rumi goes further and says that the
"sect of love" [millat-é `ishq] is distinct, separate, apart
from "all religions" [dîn-hâ]. Here, he emphasizes that pure
love of God is what is essential in religion, and that it is
distinct from the external practices of all religions.
However, this does not mean that he affirms the validity of
other religions. Rather, he affirms that the true lovers of
God everywhere are of one "sect"-- having pure love of God
as their primary religious devotion.

This is one of the few instances in which Rumi refers to
other religions. He evidences little knowledge of religions
other than Islam-- besides the minimal obtained (in a
negative context) from a traditional Islamic education. He
has used the term "religions" [dîn-hâ] in only two other
places in the Mathnawi: once in a general and neutral way
(4: 842), and once in the sense of falling into error (as
translated by Nicholson): "(Many) different roads have
become easy (to follow): every one's religion [= millat] has
become (to him) as (dear) as life. If God's making
(religion) easy were the (right) road, every Jew and
Zoroastrian would have knowledge of Him.... Every sort of
religious sect [= millat] foresaw the end (according to
their own surmise): of necessity they fell captive to error.
To foresee the end is not (as simple as) a hand-loom;
otherwise, how would there have been differences in
religions [= dîn-hâ]?" (I: 483-484, 491-492). Here, the
Zoroastrians are viewed as believing in two gods (one of
Good and one of Evil. And Jews are viewed as not being
informed, carefully attentive, wary [âgah] of God This is
presumably because of the criticisms in the Qur'an of "the
People of the Book" (Jews and Christians).

Where Nicholson translated (in his correction, based on
the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawi), "For beyond (the
realm of contraries) all religion [= millat] is one:
hundreds of thousands of years are the same as a single
hour" (I: 3504), Rumi is, again not affirming that all sects
or religions are valid, but is describing an ecstatic
mystical experience of transcendent oneness transcending all
differences and separations. When Rumi uses the word
"religion" in the singular case [dîn, kêsh], he means the
Islamic religion in general, such as: "your religion" (I:
2315); "weakness of religious faith" (III: 4572); "the kings
of religion" [= the sufi saints] (III: 307).

"It is said that (the word) '`ishq' is very strong love
[muHabbat], meaning a love that is extreme beyond (normal)
bounds. The 'sect of love' [millat-é `ishq] means that the
religion of love is separate from all religions [adyân].
Because in all religions, religious duties are based on
reason. But the lover is not ruled by reason. Rather, he is
ruled by love and is the captive of extreme love." "Another
view is that it means that the lover does not know another
[= "another religion"] besides the Beloved. And he
contemplates no beloved except his own beloved." (Anqaravi,

"The sect and doctrine of the lovers is God: meaning
that the place of going [Zahâb] and seeking and the sect of
the lovers is God. The lovers sometimes are travelling "in
God' [fî 'llâh] and sometimes travelling 'with God' [ma`a
'llâh] in the context of (the verse), 'And He is with you
[ma`a-kum] wherever you are.'" [Qur'an 57: 4] (Anqaravi,

10. (1771) If the ruby doesn't have an (engraved) seal,
there's no worry: "... the absence of a 'seal', i.e. an
engraved superscription, is a matter of no concern to the
ruby..." (Nicholson, Commentary)

11. (1771) In the sea of sorrow, Love is not sorrowful: the
true lover of God is not concerned with having an approved
label. Ecstatic love enables the lover to transcend the
sorrow of worldly blame and rejection. "The meaning is that
the (ecstatic) lover has not become obedient to the customs
of the religious law and polite manners.... The meaning is
that.... the rank of the (ecstatic) lover is higher and more
exalted than the level of sorrow and joy. And the intellect
is blind and deaf in (the capacity for) understanding the
secrets of the lovers." (Anqaravi, Commentary)


1765 `âshiq-ân-râ har nafas sôzidanê-st
bar deh-é wêrân kharâj-o `ushr nêst

gar khaTâ gôy-ad wa-râ khâTê ma-gô
gar bow-ad por-khûn shahîd ô-râ ma-shô

khûn shahîd-ân-râ ze-âb awlà-tar-ast
în khaTâ az Sad Sawâb awlà-tar-ast

dar darûn-é ka`ba rasm-é qibla nêst
che gham ar ghawwâS-râ pâchîla nêst

tô ze-sar-mast-ân qalâwûzî ma-jô
jâma-châk-ân-râ che farmây-î rafô?

1770 millat-é `ishq az hama dîn-hâ jodâ-st
`âshiq-ân-râ millat-o maZhab khodâ-st

1771 la`l-râ gar mohr na-b'w-ad bâk nêst
`ishq dar daryây-é gham gham-nâk nêst

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)