3335 The fish became the needle-makers for his dervish garments;
they were following the needles (like) threads.
The remainder of the story about Ibrahim (the son) of Adham on
the banks of the river
When the prince saw the effective (power) of the (spiritual)
Master's command in regard to the coming of the fish, a (state of)
ecstasy was disclosed to him.1
He said, "Ah! (Even) the fish is aware of the spiritual masters.2
Curses on a person who is driven out of a (sufi) gathering place!3
"The fish are aware of the (spiritual) Master-- and we (are so) far
away [from knowing him].4 We (are) miserably deprived of this
good-fortune, but they are blessed.5
He bowed (in obeisance) and went (away) sobbing and devastated.
He became crazed from love of the opening of the door [to
3340 So what are you [occupied with], O you (who have an)
unwashed face?7 With whom are you (engaged) in quarrel and in
You are playing with the tail of a lion; you are charging (forth) in a
plundering raid8 against the angels.9
Why do you speak (so) badly of pure good? Take care, (and) don't
regard that abasing (of a saint) as elevating (yourself)!10
What is evil? The copper (which is) lacking and despised. Who is
the (spiritual) Master?11 The alchemical elixir (which is) without
Even if the copper was not receptive (to transformation) by the
elixir, the elixir never becomes copper by (contact with) the
3345 What is evil? An arrogant rebel (whose) actions (are as
harmful as) fire. Who is the (spiritual) Master? The essence of the
Fire is always made to be fearful of water.14 (But) water is never
afraid of burning.15
You are finding fault with the face of the moon. You are gathering
thorns in a paradise.
O seeker of thorns, if you go into Paradise, you will not find any
thorns there-- other than you.
You are (trying to) cover a sun within a clod of dirt. You are
searching for cracks from a perfect full-moon.
3350 A sun which shines upon the world will never become hidden
for the sake of a (blind) bat.
Faults become faults by the rejection (of the behavior) by the
(spiritual) masters.16 Mysteries become mysteries because of their
At least, if you are far away from (being able to do them) service,
be friendly (in your regard for them).18 (And) be active and diligent
So that a (sweet) breeze may reach you from that way. Why are
you closing off the water of mercy because of (your) envy?
If you are far away, (at least) wag (your) tail (in a friendly manner
from) afar19 (and recall the verse), "Wherever you are, turn your
3355 When a donkey falls into the mud because of (an overly)
swift pace, he moves frequently from determination to rise.
It doesn't make the place flat for the sake of being (there). (Rather)
it knows that it isn't the place for living.
Your (common) sense has been less than the (common) sense of a
donkey, since your heart has not jumped away from this mud.21
You interpret (Islamic law) and allow yourself (a legal) excuse22 (in
order to remain) in the mud, since you do not want to tear (your)
heart away from it,
Saying (to yourself), "This is permitted for me (because) I am
forced by necessity.23 God won't blame a helpless one (such as me)
due to (His Infinite) Kindness."
3360 But He has blamed you-- (yet), like a blind hyena, you don't
see the blaming because of arrogant (self-) deception.24
(The hunters) say, "The hyena isn't in this place, so search outside,
since he isn't in the cave."
They keep saying this and (easily) place ropes on him-- (while) he
keeps saying (to himself), "They are unaware of me.
3363 "(Since) if these enemies were aware of me, they would
never have called out, (saying) 'Where is that hyena?'"25
--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), 1/17/02
Notes on the text, with line number:
1. (3336) a (state of) ecstasy was disclosed to him: Nicholson
translated less literally, "he fell into an ecstasy."
2. (3337) the (spiritual) masters [pîr-ân]: literally, "elders." This is the
Persian equivalent of the Arabic word "mashâyikh" (singular
"shaykh), which also means "elders"-- but is a sufi term meaning
"wise sufi elders" or "masters."
3. (3337) a (sufi) gathering place [dar-gah]: literally, "door-place," an
idiom used for the court of a king. Later, the term was used for a
(very simple) building where sufis met, viewed as the "court" of a
dervish "king"-- sufi master [shaykh].
4. (3338) and we (are so) far away [from knowing him]: Nicholson
translated, "and we afar (from him)!"
5. (3338) but they are blessed: Nicholson translated, "and they blest
(with enjoyment of it)!"
6. (3339) He became crazed from love of the opening of the door [to
ecstasy]: Nicholson translated, "he became mad for love of the
opening of the door (to union with God)." "(It means), 'And the
door of craziness became open due to love.'" (Anqaravi, the 17th
century Turkish commentator on the Mathnawi, translated here
into English from a Persian translation)
7. (3340) what are you [occupied with], O you (who have an)
unwashed face: "In this passage I think the poet himself addresses
any 'dirty fellow' who presumes to criticise the Pírs; it may,
however, be directed by the Shaykh's disciple against the particular
villain of the Story." (Nicholson, Commentary) "These verses are
spoken by the disciple of the Shaykh at the rejection (by anyone)
of the Shaykh. 'Therefore, O you who are inwardly of unwashed
face, on what level are you? With whom are you quarreling and
toward whom are you envying?' In other words, 'With what person
are you quarreling and disputing? And with what person are you
engaged in fault-finding? And in regard to whom are you
envious?'" (Anqaravi, the 17th century Turkish commentator,
translated here into English from a Persian translation)
8. (3341) you are charging (forth) in a plundering raid [tork-tâzî
mê-kon-î]: literally, "you are making a Turkish assault." An idiom
meaning a lightning raid in order to plunder.
9. (3341) against the angels: "i.e. 'you are insulting the angels, who
paid homage to the Perfect Man [= a term in the sufi philosophy of
Ibnu 'l-`Arabi, died 1240, which means the "completed" saint who
reflects all the Divine Attributes of God] in the person of Adam."
10. (3342) Take care, (and) don't regard that abasing (of a saint) as
elevating (yourself): Nicholson translated, "Beware, deem not that
lowness (villifying the saints) to be eminence!"
11. (3343) the (spiritual) Master [shaykh]: literally, "elder." Means a
wise sufi guide [the equivalent word in Persian is "pîr"].
12. (3344) the elixir never becomes copper by (contact with) the
copper: "The saint is able to make carnal folk spiritual; his
perfection cannot be impaired by reprobates unsusceptible to holy
influence." (Nicholson, Commentary)
13. (3345) The essence of the endless ocean: Nicholson translated,
"The very Sea of Eternity." He added: "Or, 'the objective
manifestation of the Sea.'" (Footnote)
14. (3346) Fire is always made to be fearful of water: "The fire of lust
and passion dreads the murshid [= sufi master] who seeks to
extinguish it." (Nicholson, Commentary)
15. (3346) (But) water is never afraid of burning: "It means, 'The one
who is the spring-source of light and pure water never fears
burning from sensuality and the conflagration of animal qualities.
So he has no fear.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)
16. (3351) (spiritual) masters [pîr-ân]: see above note on line 3343.
17. (3351) because of their jealousy: Nicholson corrected his
translation, based on the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawi, to
"by their jealousy" (from, "by the jealousy of Pirs." "Being the
touchstone of Reality, the saint rejects, and thereby stamps as evil,
whatever is opposed to his own nature (cf. I 2478-2481 and note ad
loc. [="The unbelievers falsely imagine that they reject the holy
man who calls them to God. In truth it is he who rejects them, for it
is the nature of reality to reject illusion. Had there been any
spiritual affinity between him and them, he would have accepted
them, and then they would have responded to his call. Faith is a
gift of Divine grace: there can be no question of refusing it."]); he
knows all things good and evil here and hereafter, and would make
them known were he not jealous of revealing Divine mysteries."
18. (3352) At least, if you are far away from (being able to do them)
service, be friendly (in your regard for them): Nicholson translated,
"If you are far (aloof in spirit from the saints), at any rate be joined
(with them) through (paying) respect (to them)."
19. (3354) If you are far away, (at least) wag (your) tail (in a friendly
manner from) afar: Nicholson translated, "Though you are far
aloof, at (that) distance wag your tail (ingratiate yourself with
them)." Physical distance and a friendly-pleasing attitude are
themes of this line and line 3352 (in contrast to Nicholson's
interpretation of distance as aloofness).
20. (3354) "Wherever you are, turn your faces": "So wherever you are,
turn your faces toward (the sacred Mosque) [= the Ka`ba]." (Qur'an
2:144) Slightly altered to fit the meter.
21. (3357) since your heart has not jumped away from this mud: "i.e.
the world and the flesh, which... are 'a very miry slough'."
22. (3358) You interpret (Islamic law) and allow yourself (a legal)
excuse: Nicholson noted, "The three oldest MSS. [= manuscripts]
read ta`wíl u rukhsat." (Commentary) However, he did not offer a
correction (by adding the word "and") of his translation ("You
interpret (some canonical text) as an indulgence (authorising you
to stay) in the mud...").
23. (3359) This is permitted for me (because) I am forced by necessity:
"Cf. supra, v. 520 [= translated by Nicholson: "(In case) of
necessity a carcase is lawful (food)"] and note ad loc [= "Cf. Qur.
V 5: 'if anyone without inclination to sin be forced by hunger (to
eat what is unlawful)-- verily God is forgiving and merciful.'"]."
(Nicholson, Commentary) (
24. (3360) like a blind hyena, you don't see the blaming because of
arrogant (self-) deception: "If the carnal man counts on God to
save him, he is greatly deceived: he cannot persist in sin with
impunity; nay, the signs of his punishment are already apparent in
the blindness and self-delusion with which God has afflicted him.
This mode of Divine action (makr and istidráj [= trickery, seeking
gradual removal (in order to punish)]) whereby the wicked are
inspired with false confidence and insensibly led on to meet their
doom, resembles a trick employed in order to capture the hyena."
25. (3363) that hyena: Nicholson later corrected his translation, based
on the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawi, to "that hyena" (from,
"this hyena"). "Among the Arabs the hyena was proverbial for its
stupidity.... The poet makes use of the same illustration in a similar
passage (IV 179 sqq.)." (Nicholson, Commentary)
3335 mâhiy-ân sôzan-gar-é dalq-ash shaw-and
sôzan-ân-râ reshta-hâ tâbi`i bow-and
baqiyya-yé qiSSa-yé ibrâhîm adham bar lab-é ân daryâ
chûn nafâZ-é amr-é shaykh ân mîr dîd
z-âmad-é mâhî shod-ash wajdê padîd
goft ah, mâhi ze-pîr-ân âgah-ast
shoh tanê-râ k-ô la`în-é dar-gah-ast
mâhiy-ân az pîr âgah mâ ba`îd
mâ shaqî z-în dawlat-o îshân sa`îd
sajda kard-o raft geryân-o kharâb
gasht dêwâna z-`ishq-é fatH-é bâb
3340 pas tô ay nâ-shoshta-rô dar chîst-î
dar nizâ`-wo dar Hasad bâ-kîst-î?
bâ dom-é shêrê tô bâzî mê-kon-î
bar malâyik tork-tâzî mê-kon-î
bad che mê-gôy-î tô khayr-é maHZ-râ?
hîn taraffu` kam shomor ân khafZ-râ
bad che bâsh-ad? mes-é muHtâj-é muhân
shaykh ke b'w-ad? kîmiyây-é bê-karân
mess agar az kîmiyâ qâbil na-bod
kîmiyâ az mess hargez mes na-shod
3345 bad che bâsh-ad? sar-kashê, âtesh-`amal
shaykh ke b'w-ad? `ayn-é daryây-é azal
dâyim âtesh-râ be-tarsân-and az âb
âb kay tarsîd hargez z-iltihâb?
dar rokh-é mah `ayb-bînî mê-kon-î
dar beheshtê, khâr-chîn-î mê-kon-î
gar behesht andar raw-î tô khâr-jô
hêch khâr ân-jâ na-yâb-î ghayr-é tô
mê be-pôsh-î âftâbê dar gelê
rokhna mê-jôy-î ze-badr-é kâmilê
3350 âftâbê ke be-tâb-ad dar jahân
bahr-é khuffâshê ko-jâ gard-ad nehân?
`ayb-hâ az radd-é pîr-ân `ayb shod
ghayb-hâ az rashk-é îshân ghayb shod
bârê ar dûr-î ze-khidmat, yâr bâsh
dar nadâmat châbok-o bar kâr bâsh
tâ az ân râh-at nasîmê mê-ras-ad
âb-é raHmat-râ che band-î az Hasad?
gar-che dûr-î dûr, mê-jonbân tô dom
Haythu mâ kunt-um fa-wallû wajha-kum
3355 chûn karê dar gel fot-ad az gâm-é têz
dam ba-dam jonb-ad barây-é `azm-é khêz
jây-râ ham-wâr na-k'n-ad bahr-é bâsh
dân-ad ô ke nêst ân jây-é ma`âsh
Hiss-é tô az Hiss-é khar kam-tar bod-ast
ke del-é tô z-în waHal-hâ bar na-jast
dar waHal ta'wîl-o rakhSat mê-kon-î
chûn na-mê-khwâh-î k-az ân del bar-kan-î?
k-în rawâ bâsh-ad ma-râ, man muZTar-am
Haq na-gîr-ad `âjizê-râ az karam
3360 khwad gereft-ast-at, tô chûn kaftâr-é kûr
în gereftan-râ na-bîn-î az ghurûr
mê-gôy-and în jây-gah kaftâr nêst
az berûn jôy-îd, k-andar ghâr nêst
în hamê gôy-and-o band-ash mê-neh-and
ô hamê gôy-ad ze-man bê-âghah-and
3363 gar ze-man âgâh bûdy în `adû
kay nidâ kardy ke ân kaftâr kô?
(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)