The Miracles of Ibrahim son of Adham (part one)

Mathnawi II: 3207-3228

3207 The (truly wise) thought is what opens a way,1 (and) the way
(of spiritual wisdom) is that (one) before which a (spiritual) king

(And) the (spiritual) king is (one) who is a king from (within)
himself,2 not (one who) becomes king by (possessing) treasuries
and an army--

So that his kingship lasts forever, like the grandeur of the kingdom
of the Muhammadan Religion.3

The miracles of Ibrahim, the son of Adham4-- may God sanctify
his spirit--5 on the bank of a river

3210 Just as (the story) about Ibrahim (the son) of Adham has
reached (us), that after a journey he sat down on the bank of a

That spiritual sultan was sewing his (patched woolen) dervish
garment, (when) suddenly a prince arrived there.6

That prince was (previously) among the servants of the Master;7
he recognized the Master and quickly prostrated (in obeisance).8

He was amazed at the Master and at his dervish garment (and
thought), "His disposition and manner (have) changed to a (very)
different appearance;"9

That, "He had abandoned such a great kingdom (and) chosen that
very thin (life of) poverty;10

3215 (And that), "He left a kingdom (comprising) of seven
climates,11 (and) he stabs a needle at (that) ragged robe like a

The Master became aware of his thought, (for) a (spiritual) master
is like a lion and the hearts [of disciples] are (like) his jungle;

(He is) going into (their) hearts12 like hope and fear. The secrets of
the world are not hidden from him

O unprofitable ones, guard (the thoughts of your) hearts in the
presence of the holy majesty of the owners of (sanctified) hearts.13

In front of (worldly) people of the body, courtesy is on the outward
(level) since God is veiling the inward (level) from them.14

3220 (But) in front of the owners of (sanctified) hearts, courtesy is
on the inward (level),15 since their hearts are the intelligent
perceivers of the secrets (of others).16

You are the opposite: you come into the presence of (spiritually)
blind ones for the sake of (worldly) rank and status (and) you sit
(proudly) in the hallway (filled with shoes and sandals).

(Yet) in front of (spiritually) perceptive ones you abandon courtesy
and respect. Because of that you have become firewood for the
flames of excessive desire.

Since you don't have (such) intelligent perception and light of
(Divine) guidance, (go ahead and) keep brightening (your) face for
the sake of the (spiritually) blind!

(But) in front of (spiritually) perceptive ones, rub excrement on
your face!17 (Go ahead and) keep acting proud (in their presence)
with such a foul-smelling state (that is yours)!

3225 The Master quickly threw the needle into the river (and)
asked for the needle with a loud voice.

A hundred thousand divine fish18-- a golden needle in the lips of
each fish--

Raised (their) heads from the God's River, saying, "O Master take
God's needles!"

3228 (The Master) turned (his) face toward him and asked him,
"O prince! Is the kingdom of the heart better or such a lowly and
contemptible (worldly) kingdom?"

--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" (, 1/10/02

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (3207) a way [rahê]: "i.e. a means of attaining to spiritual
perfection." (Nicholson, Commentary)

2. (3208) (And) the (spiritual) king is (one) who is a king from
(within) himself: "i.e. in virtue of the kingly nature with which
God has endowed him." (Nicholson, Commentary) These words
were added, in the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawi, as a
correction in red ink above the original first half of the line, which
read, "(And) the (spiritual) king is (one) who goes before the
King"-- meaning God [shâh ân bâsh-ad ke pêsh-é shah raw-ad].
Nicholson later adopted this as a correction, based on the earliest
manuscript: "The (true) king is he that goes into the presence of the
King" (from, "The (true) king is he that is king in himself").

3. (3209) like the grandeur of the Muhammadan Religion [dîn-é
AHmadî]: literally, "the Ahmadic Religion." The name "Ahmad"
is a shortened form of Muhammad and, in religious literature,
always refers to him. It means the religion "colored" by the
inspired, noble, and generous personality of the Prophet. Islam is
not considered a new religion, but as expressing the essence of the
same Revelation given to previous prophets (from Noah to Jesus).
While Muhammad was the instrument for Revelation, only God is
the source of salvation. And since Muhammad is not the source of
salvation (as Jesus is in Christianity or Buddha is in certain kinds
of Buddhism), it is incorrect to refer to Islam as "Muhammadism"
(a term invented by Western orientalists).

"It remains like the grandeur and nobility of the kingdom of the
Ahmadic Religion, which is increased from age to age. And (like)
the grandeur and nobility of the saints, who are its lasting and
enduring inheritors. But it is not easy for any one to see the
[hidden] grandeur and nobility of the saints-- just as in the case of
Hazrat-i Ibrahim Adham..." (Anqaravi, the 17th century Turkish
commentator, translated here from Persian)

4. (Heading) The miracles of Ibrahim, the son of Adham: "Ibráhím
ibn Adham of Balkh, whose legend is modelled on the life of
Buddha (cf. IV 726 sqq., 829 sqq., VI 1736 sqq., 3938). He died in
A.H. 160/A.D. 776-777..... he abandoned his worldly kingdom and
became a spiritual king." "The prose version of the miracle related
in this passage runs as follows [= a translation from `Attar's
"taZkiratu 'l-awliyâ"]: 'One day whilst he was seated on the banks
of the Tigris [= River], stitching his tattered khirqah [= dervish
cloak], the needle fell into the river. Some one said to him, "You
gave up such a splendid kingdom: what have you gained?" Ibráhím
signified to the river that his needle should be given back.
Immediately a thousand fishes rose from the water, each carrying
in its mouth a needle of gold. He said to them, "I want my needle",
whereupon a poor little fish came to the surface with the needle in
its mouth. "This", said Ibráhím, "is the least thing I have gained by
giving up the kingdom of Balkh: the other things you cannot
know."'" (Nicholson, Commentary)

5. (Heading) may God sanctify his spirit [qaddas allâhu sirru-hu]:
these words were added, in the earliest manuscript, as a
correction in red ink to the original wording.

6. (3211) That spiritual sultan was sewing his (patched) dervish robe,
(when) suddenly a prince arrived there: Nicholson later corrected
his translation, on the basis of the earliest manuscript of the
Mathnawi, to "(Whilst) that spiritual king was stitching his mantle,
an Amír suddenly came to that spot" (from "(Whilst) he was
stitching his Súfí mantle, an Amír, walking on the shore, suddenly
came to that spot."

7. (3212) the Master [shaykh]: literally, "old man." Means a spiritual
elder, who is a sufi master and guide. The equivalent word in
Persian is "pîr."

8. (3212) prostrated [sajda kard]" this is a prostration of obeisance
(expressing deferential courtesy as well as obedience) to a king,
not to be confused with prostration and worship toward God.
Dervishes also prostrated before their spiritual master (shaykh) as
their spiritual king. Presumably the actual posture had clear
difference with the prostration in the Islamic ritual prayer. "He
quickly placed (his) head on the ground and expressed reverence
and respect [ta`Zîmî kard]." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

9. (3213) his disposition and manner (had) changed to a different
appearance: Nicholson translated, "(for) his nature and outward
guise had become transformed." "In other words, he had become
transformed inwardly." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

10. (3214) that very thin (life of) poverty: literally, "that thin-lettered
poverty." Probably refers to the "slender" letter "a" [alif]. A
metaphor for a life of little food and a thin (and frequently hungry)
body. Nicholson translated "that very pettifogging (spiritual)
poverty." And he explained, "I think 'bârîk Harf' [= thin-lettered] is
best taken as a compound adjective. The alternative rendering
would be '(spiritual) poverty-- a very subtle (slender and
unsubstantial) affair.' In any case there is an antithesis between
'shegarf' [= great] and bârîk [= slender]." (Footnote) He also
explained: The literal meaning of the word is 'thin-edged', which
makes a good antithesis to shigarf [= great]." (Commentary)

"'It is very slender letter': meaning that Ibrahim's renunciation of
such a great kingdom and his choosing poverty is (something
involving) a very subtle meaning, since the understanding of every
person cannot comprehend it." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

11. (3215) (And that), "He left a kingdom (comprising) of seven
climates: Nicholson later corrected his translation, on the basis of
the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawi, to "(And why) he
renounced the sovereignty of the Seven Climes" (from "(And why)
he lets the sovereignty of the Seven Climes be lost (by him)").

12. (3217) (He is) going into (their) hearts: regarding this line,
Nicholson quoted from Qushayri (died 1074) about "the saying of
Ahmad ibn `âsim al-Antákí: 'when ye consort with the sincere
(ahlu 'l-sidq), do so with sincerity for they are the spies upon hearts
(jawásísu 'l-qulúb): they enter into your hearts and go out of them
in such a way that ye perceive it not.'" (Commentary)

13. (3218) the holy majesty of the owners of (sanctified) hearts:
Nicholson translated, "the presence of the majesty of the men of
heart (saints)."

14. (3219) since God is veiling the inward (level) from them: "Because
God Most High has hidden the inward (level) and secrets [of
others] from them." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

15. (3220) courtesy [adab] is on the inward (level): "Therefore it is
necessary to show watchfulness of deceitful, spoiled, and impure
thoughts in your heart (while) in their presence." (Anqaravi,

16. (3220) since their hearts are the intelligent perceivers of the secrets
(of others): "I.e. 'holy men can read the thoughts and feelings of
veneration with which you ought to regard them, whereas worldly
magnates perceive only outward marks of respect and deserve
nothing." (Nicholson, Commentary)

17. (3224) rub excrement [Hadath} on your face: Nicholson translated,
"daub thy face with dirt!." And he explained: "The poet ironically
recommends such a person to let his heart be defiled with malice
and rancour."

"The meaning of 'excrement' is denial and corrupt thoughts, as well
as deceitful and impure thoughts which arise from enmity and
hatred." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

18. (3226) divine fish [mâhî-yé allâhîyê]: "(The meaning is)
'connected with God.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)


3207 fikr ân bâsh-ad ke be-g'shây-ad rahê
râh ân bâsh-ad ke pêsh ây-ad shahê

shâh ân bâsh-ad ke az khwad shah bow-ad
na ba-makhzan-hâ-wo lashkar shah shaw-ad

tâ be-mân-ad shâhî-yé ô sarmadî
ham-chô `izz-é mulk-é dîn-é aHmadî

karâmât-é ibrâhîm adham-- qaddasu 'llâhu sirru-hu-- bar lab-é daryâ

3210 ham ze-ibrâhîm-é adham âmad-ast
k-ô ze-râhê bar lab-é daryâ neshast

dalq-é khwad mê-dôkht ân sulTân-é jân
yak amîrê âmad ân-jâ nâgahân

ân amîr az bandag-ân-é shaykh bûd
shaykh-râ be-sh'nâkht, sajda kard zûd

khêra shod dar shaykh-o andar dalq-é ô
shakl-é dêgar gashta khulq-o khalq-é ô

k-ô rahâ kard ân-chon-ân mulkê shegarf
bar gozîd ân faqr-é bas bârîk Harf

3215 tark kard ô mulk-é haft-aqlîm-râ
mê-zan-ad bar dalq sôzan chûn gadâ

shaykh wâqif gasht az andêsha-ash
shaykh chûn shêr-ast-o del-hâ bêsha-ash

chûn rajâ-wo khawf dar del-ha rawân
nêst makhfî bar way asrâr-é jahân

del negah-dâr-îd ay bê-HâSil-ân
dar HuZûr-é HaZrat-é SâHib-del-ân

pêsh-é ahl-é tan adab bar Zâhir-ast
ke khodâ z-îshân nehân-ra sâtir-ast

3220 pêsh-é ahl-é del adab bar bâTin-ast
z-ân-ke del-shân bar sarâyir fâTin-ast

tô ba-`aks-î pêsh-é kôr-ân bahr-é jâh
bâ HuZûr ây-î, neshîn-î pây-gâh

pêsh-é bînây-ân kon-î tark-é adab
nâr-é shahwat-râ az ân gasht-î HaTab

chûn na-dâr-î fiTnat-o nûr-é hudà
bahr-é kôr-ân rôy-râ mê-zan jalâ

pêsh-é bînây-ân HadaS dar rôy mâl
nâz mê-kon bâ chon-în gandîda-Hâl

3225 shaykh sôzan zûd dar daryâ fekand
khwâst sôzan-râ ba-âwâz-é boland

Sad hazâr-ân mâhî-yé allâhîyê
sôzan-é zar dar lab-é har mâhîyê

sar bar âward-and az daryây-é Haq
ke be-gîr ay shaykh sôzan-hây-é Haq

3228 rô ba-d-ô kard-o be-goft-ash ay amîr
mulk-é del beh yâ chon-ân mulk-é Haqîr?

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)