Hidden Punishment

Mathnawi II: 3364-3397

The assertion of a person (who said), "God Most High will
not seize me (in punishment) for (my) sins." And the reply
of (the Prophet) Shu`ayb1 to him

3364 That one was saying, during the era of (the Prophet)
Shu'ayb, "God has seen many faults from me.

3365 "He has seen many vices and crimes (done) by me, but
God doesn't hold me (accountable) due to (His) Kindness."

By means of a hidden way, God Most High spoke clearly
into Shu'ayb's ear concerning an answer to him,

Which (was): "You said, "I have committed many sins, and
God hasn't seized me (in punishment) for my crimes due to
(His) Kindness."

"'O ignorant fool! You are (actually) saying the
contrary and reverse (of your condition). O you (who) have
left the road and taken to the desert!

"'I seize you (in punishment) so many times, but you
(are) unaware. You have remained in chains, (from) head to

3370 "'O blackened pot! Your rust, layer upon layer, has
corroded your inward face.'2

"'Rusts upon rusts have collected upon your heart,3 so
that it has become blind to (spiritual) secrets.'"

If that smoke rushes against a new pot, the effect would
appear even if it were (only the size of) a barley seed.

Since everything becomes visible by means of (its)
opposite: the black (stain) becomes disgraced in public
(when) upon something white.

When the pot becomes blackened, then after this no one
will quickly see the effect of smoke upon it.
3375 The man (who is a) blacksmith-- when he is an
Ethiopian, the smoke is the same color as his face.

(Whereas) the (light-skinned) Greek man-- when he is
engaged in blacksmithing, his face becomes mixed with black
and white from accepting the smoke.

He will then quickly know the effects of sin4 so that he
soon cries out, saying, "O God!"

(But) when he persists and (still) engages in bad works,
and puts dust into the eyes of (his) thinking,5

He will not think of repentance again. Those sins will
become (so) sweet to his heart that he will become devoid of

3380 That regret and (pleas of) "O Lord!" (will then) have
gone from him, (for) a five-fold (layer) of rust (will have)
settled upon the (mirror of his) heart.7

The (layers of) rust (will have) started to eat his
(mirror's) iron, (and) the rust (will have) begun to
decrease its luster.

When you write upon white paper, the writing comes to be
read (easily) by (a single) glance.

(But) when you write on top of a line (previously)
written, the understanding (of it) doesn't come (easily),8
(and) its reading becomes incorrect.

For that (additional) blackness has fallen upon
blackness and both scripts have become darkened and obscure
and do not yield any meaning.

3385 And if you write a third time on top of it, (then) you
will make (it even) darker, like a soul full of its (own)

Then, what help (is there) except the refuge of (God)
the (only) Helper? Hopelessness (is like) copper and it's
(transformative) elixir is the (Divine) Glance.10

Place (all your) despairs before Him, so that you may
leap beyond incurable suffering.

When Shu'ayb told him these points (of spiritual truth),
roses blossomed in his heart from that spiritual breath.

His soul heard the inspiration from Heaven. (Yet) he
said, "If I am seized (in punishment), where is the sign?"

3390 (Shu'ayb) said, "O Lord! He speaks (in a way which)
rejects me, (and) he seeks the sign of being held in blame."

(God) said, "I am the Veiler (of sins). I will not tell
his secrets-- except (for) one secret by way of (giving) him

"One sign of the (ways) that I am seizing him (is) that
he has (done) acts of devotion, fasting, and invocation of

"And (also) of ritual prayer, charity, and others
besides-- but he doesn't have a single atom of spiritual
savor and delight.

"He does (many) acts of worship and lofty (pious) deeds,
but doesn't have a single atom of (spiritual) taste and

3395 "His devotion is excellent, but the inward spirituality
(is) not good. (There are) many walnuts, but no kernel
inside them."

(Spiritual) taste12 is needed, so that acts of worship
may give fruit. (And) a kernel is needed, so that the seed
may produce a tree.

3397 A seed without a kernel will never become a young tree.
Form without spirit will become nothing except (vain)

--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), 3/07/02

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (Heading) (the Prophet) Shu`ayb: one of the Prophets
mentioned in the Qur'an. "... the Midyanite prophet Shu`ayb
(whom some identify with Jethro." (Nicholson, Commentary)

2. (3370) has corroded (your) face inside of you: Nicholson
translated, "hath marred the visage of thy heart."

3. (3371) Rusts upon rusts have collected upon your heart:
The heart is compared to a rusty mirror (since mirrors used
to be made from iron). "The gradually corrupting and
deadening effects of sin upon the heart is likened to the
slow accumulation of rust upon the face of a steel mirror.
Cf. Qur. LXXXIII 14: 'nay, but that (sin) which they were
committing hath become rust upon their hearts (rána `alá
qulúbihim).' One the technical term rayn, see Kashf., Eng. 4
seq., 391[= Nicholson's translation of Hujwiri's Kashfu
'l-Mahjub]... The Prophet said: 'When a creature (`abd)
commits a sin, a black spot appears on his heart. If he ask
pardon of God, it will be rubbed off; but if he sin
repeatedly, it will increase until his (whole) heart is
blackened; and that is the (meaning) of rána [= rust] in the
verse of the Qur'án.'" (Nicholson , Commentary)

4. (3377) He will then quickly know the effects of sin:
"Then the one who has become illumined with the white light
of Unity [tawHîd] upon his heart will quickly understand the
effects of sin and he will quickly plead and wail toward the
Court of God [dargâh-é khodâ]..." (Anqaravi, the 17th
century Turkish commentator, translated here into English
from Persian).

5. (3378) and puts dust into the eyes of (his) thinking:
"(It means), 'He causes the eye of his mind and thinking to
be blind.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

6. (3379) will become devoid of Religion: Nicholson
translated, "he comes to be without the Faith (he turns
infidel)." Later, he wrote, "Fa [= Anqaravi] renders this
word (as I have done) by káfir [= unbeliever]; but
'undevout' suits the context better." (Commentary)

7. (3380) rust (will have) settled upon the (mirror of his)
heart: This is referred to in the Qur'an: 'That which they
have earned is rust [râna] upon their hearts' (83:14). The
sufis have loved the traditional saying [Hadîth] attributed
to the Prophet Muhammad, "Truly for everything there is a
polishing, and the polishing for the heart is the
recollection of God" [inna li-kulli shay-in Siqâlat-an wa
Siqâlatu 'l-qulûb Zikru 'llâh]. Anqaravi quotes a different
Hadîth: "qâla `alay-hi 's-salâm 'inna 'l-qulûbu taSadâ' kamâ
yaSdâ' al-Hadîd.' qâlû wa mâ jalâ'û-hâ yâ rasûlu 'llâh? qâla
Zikru 'llâh." (He said-- may peace be upon him, "Truly,
hearts are rusted just as iron is rusted." They said, "And
what is its polish, O Messenger of God?" He said,
"Remembrance of God.")

8. (3383) the understanding (of it) doesn't come (easily):
"It means, 'When the heart is (like) white paper, any time
that you write an incorrect line upon it, that writing will
be read (clearly) in the first glance..."

9. (3385) darker, like the soul full of its (own) evil:
Nicholson later corrected his translation, based on the
earliest manuscript, to "black as a soul full of wickedness"
(from, "black as the infidel's soul").

10. (3386) like) copper and it's (transformative) elixir is
the (Divine) Glance: a metaphor from alchemy, the supposed
science of making an "elixir" which may transform copper
into gold. Nicholson wrote that the word for "Glance, "
naZar is equivalent to `ináyah, the Divine favour which
transforms despair into hope. Fa [= Anqaravi] says that
naZar here may signify 'expectation (intizár) of God's
mercy'. Such expectation, however, is the 'gold' rather than
the 'elixir'." (Commentary)

11. (3391) by way of (giving) him trial: "i.e. 'in order to
test the sincerity of his repentance'." (Nicholson,

12. (3396) (Spiritual) taste: "The intended meaning of
'taste': it is purity and presence of heart. As long as
there is no purity and presence of heart, acts of devotion
will not yield produce and fruit." (Anqaravi, Commentary)


da`wî-kardan-é ân shakhS ke khodây ta`âlà ma-râ na-mê-gîr-ad
gonâh wa jawâb-goftan-é shu`ayb-- `alay-hi 's-salaam-- mar

3364 ân yakê mê-goft dar `ahd-é shu`ayb
ke khodâ az man basê dîd-ast `ayb

3365 chand dîd az man gonâh-o jurm-hâ
w-az karam yazdân na-mê-gîr-ad ma-râ

Haq ta`alà goft dar gôsh-é shu`ayb
dar jawâb-é ô faSîH az râh-é ghayb

ke be-goft-î chand kard-am man gonâh
w-az karam na-g'reft dar jurm-am alâh

`aks mê-gôy-î-wo maqlûb ay safih
ay rahâ-karda rah-wo be-g'refta tîh

chand-chand-at gîr-am-o tô bê-khabar
dar salâsil mânda-î pâ tâ ba-sar

3370 zang-é tô bar tô-t ay dêg-é seyâh
kard sîmây-é darûn-at-râ tabâh

bar del-at zangâr bar zangâr-hâ
jam` shod tâ kôr shod z-asrâr-hâ

gar zan-ad ân dûd bar dêg-é nawê
ân aSar be-n'mây-ad ar bâsh-ad jawê

z-ân-ke har chêzê ba-Zid paydâ shaw-ad
bar sapêdê ân seyah roswâ shaw-ad

chûn seyah shod dêg pas ta'Sîr-é dûd
ba`d az în bar way ke bîn-ad zûd-zûd

3375 mard-é âhan-gar ke ô zangî bow-ad
dûd-râ bâ row-ash ham rangê bow-ad

mard-é rûmî k-ô kon-ad âhan-garî
rôy-ash ablaq gard-ad az dûd-âwarî

pas be-dân-ad zûd ta'Sîr-é gonâh
tâ be-nâl-ad zûd, gôy-ad ay alâh

chûn kon-ad aSrâr-o bad-pêsha kon-ad
khâk andar chashm-é andêsha kon-ad

tawba n-andêsh-ad, degar shîrîn shaw-ad
bar del-ash ân jurm tâ bê-dîn shaw-ad

3380 ân pashêmânî-wo yâ rab raft az-ô
shest bar âyîna zang-é panj-tô

âhan-ash-râ zang-hâ khwordan gereft
gawhar-ash-râ zang kam-kardan gereft

chûn newês-î kâgaZ-é espêd bar
ân nebeshta khwânda ây-ad dar naZar

chûn newês-î bar sar-é be-n'veshta khaT
fahm n-ây-ad, khwândan-ash gard-ad ghalaT

k-ân seyâhî bar seyâhî ôftâd
har dô khaT shod kôr-o ma`nîyê na-dâd

3385 w-ar seyom bâra newês-î bar sar-ash
pas seyah kard-î chûn jân-é por-shar-ash

pas che châra joz panâh-é châra-gar
nâ-omêdî mess-o iksîr-ash naZar

nâ-omêdî-hâ ba-pêsh-é ô neh-îd
tâ ze-dard-é bê-dawâ bêrûn jah-îd

chûn shu`ayb în nukta-hâ bâ ô be-goft
z-ân dam-é jân dar del-é ô gol-shekoft

jân-é ô be-sh'nîd waHî-yé âsmân
goft agar be-g'reft mâ-râ kô neshân?

3390 goft yâ rab daf`-é man mê-gôy-ad ô
ân gereftan-râ neshân mê-jôy-ad ô

goft sattâr-am na-gôy-am râz-hâ-sh
joz yakê ramz az barây-é ibtilâ-sh

yak neshân-é ân-ke mê-gîr-am ô-râ
ân-ke Tâ`at dâr-ad-o Sawm-o du`â

w-az namâz-o az zakât-o ghayr-é ân
lêk yak Zarra na-dâr-ad Zawq-é jân

mê-kon-ad Tâ`ât-o af`âl-é sanî
lêk yak Zarra na-dâr-ad châshnî

3395 Tâ`at-ash naghz-ast-o ma`nî naghz nê
jawz-hâ besyâr-o dar way maghz nê

Zawq bây-ad tâ deh-ad Tâ`ât bar
maghz bây-ad tâ deh-ad dâna shajar

3397 dâna-yé bê-maghz kay gard-ad nehâl?
Sûrat-é bê-jân na-bâsh-ad joz kheyâl

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)