Solomon and Bilqis (part one)

Mathnawi IV: 781-782, 792-811

The sending of a threat by Solomon-- (may) the peace (of
God) be upon him-- to Bilqis, (Queen of Sheba): "Do not
consider stubbornly persisting in polytheism!1 And don't
delay [in submitting to me]!"

781 (Solomon said), "Be careful, (O) Bilqis, (and) come (in
surrender)!2 Or else it will become bad (for you): your
army3 will become your enemy (and) will turn renegade.

782 Your door-keeper will tear away your door, (and) your
soul will treat you with enmity with (all its) soul."

. . . . . . .

792 O you (who) have shown4 opposition to God in the deeds
of (your) instruction:5 you are in the midst of His army--
(so) be afraid!

(Every) part of your (bodily) parts (is a member of) His
army in harmony (with His Will); they are submissive to you
at present (but only) out of pretence.6

(For) if He says to (your) eyes, "Squeeze him!"-- eye
pain will bring forth a hundred (feelings of) destruction
for you.7

795 And If he says to (your) teeth, "Make something painful
to appear!"-- then you will experience punishment from your

Open (a book about) medicine (and) read the chapter on
diseases, so you may see the (painful) doings of the army of
the body.

Since He is the Soul of the soul of everything,
hostility toward the Soul of the soul is no easy (task).8

(Solomon continued saying), "Leave aside the armies of
demons and jinns which act from (all the strength) amidst
(their) souls (in giving aid) to me9 in breaking the ranks
(of the enemy).

"From the start, O Bilqis, abandon (your) kingdom. (For)
when you find (out about) me,10 the entire kingdom will
belong to you.11

800 "When you have come to me, you will know that without
me, you are (nothing more than) a picture on the bath house

Although the image may be the depiction of a king or a
wealthy man, it is (no more than) a form (and) it is without
(any) experience of a spirit of its own.13

Its beauty (is only) for the sake of others, (and its)
eyes and mouth have opened uselessly.

O you (who) have gambled yourself away in [vain]
combat:14 you have not distinguished others from your
[essential] self;15

You stop at every form which you reach (and say), "I am
this."16 By God, you are not that.

805 (And when) you are left alone from people for a single
moment,17 you remain in distress and worry up to (your)

You are never [merely] this since you are [in reality]
that singular one18 -- because you are [essentially]
delightful, beautiful, and (blissfully) drunk with your

You are your own bird, your own prey, and your own trap;
you are your own seat of honor,your own carpet, and your
own roof.19

The essential substance1 is what endures by itself,
(but) that is (merely) a transient occurrence which is its

If you are born of Adam, sit like him (and) see all
(your) descendants within yourself.21

810 What (is) in the jar which is not in the river? (And)
what (is present) in the house which is not in the city?

811 This world is (like) a jar and the heart like a river of
water;22 this world is (like) a private room and the heart
(like) a marvelous city.

--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 1930 British translation)
Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (, 7/26/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (Heading) polytheism [shirk]: means associating the One
True God with other divinities, as if there were multiple
gods; or attributing human partners to God such as supposed
incarnations of God (such as Jesus) or divinized human
beings (such as Hercules and others.)

2. (781) come (in surrender): a reference to the letter
which the Prophet Solomon sent to Bilqis, the Queen of
Sheba: "In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most
Compassionate: Do not arrogantly exalt yourself against me,
but come to me in submission [muslimîn]." (Qur'an, 27:30-31)
"(It means), 'O Bilqis, become aware and come to the (true)
Faith and accept Islam-- or else...'" (Anqaravi, the famous
17th century Turkish commentator, translated here into
English from a Persian translation)

3. (781) your army: "i.e. 'thy members and faculties'."
"Lashkar [= army] here is a translation of the Qur'ánic
junúd (XLVIII 4, etc.), i.e. the various kinds of created
things which God uses as armies or auxiliaries for executing
His purpose." (Nicholson, Commentary)

4. (792) O you (who) have shown [ay nomûda]: This is the
reading in Nicholson's text. The reading in Tôfîq Subhânî's
text [ay namûd] is apparently an error, since it causes the
meter to be shortened.

5. (792) in the deeds of (your) instruction: means, in your
deeds which you have also taught others to do. Nicholson
translated, "O you that in our actions have studied to
oppose God..." "It means, 'You have acted in opposition to
the command of God Most High.' This is also another view of
the meaning: 'O you who have established a lesson (for
others) of acting in opposition to God Most High for your
own sake in your actions and behavior.'" (Anqaravi,

6. (793) they are submissive to you at present (but only)
out of pretence: "(It means), "(But) the moment when God
Most High wills them (to be) opposed to you all the members
(of your) body will change and become contrary and opposed
to you.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

7. (794) will bring forth a hundred annihilations for you:
Nicholson translated, "will wreak upon you a hundred

8. (797) is no easy (task): Nicholson translated, "how is
it a light matter...?"

9. (798) the armies of demons and jinns... (in giving aid)
to me: God gave Solomon power to control the demons [satans]
(Qur'an 21:82; 38:37-38) and jinn [genies)] (Qur'an 27:17).
"I.e. 'leave them out of account: all God's armies are at my
disposal.'" (Nicholson, Footnote) "(It means), 'If only one
army among those becomes dominant over you, you will not
have the power to fight with it.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

10. (799) when you find (out about) me: means, "When you
surrender to me and discover that I am God's chosen
Prophet." Nicholson translated, "when thou gainest me..."

11. (799) the entire kingdom will belong to you: "Those who
devote themselves to Solomon (the Completed Man [= the saint
who reflects all the Attributes of God-- a term in the sufi
philosophy of Ibnu 'l-`Arabi, died 1240]) gain both the
kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God.

12. (800) you are (nothing more than) a picture on the bath
house (walls): Depictions of living creatures (animals and
human beings) have long been frowned on in Islam (to avoid
any taint of idolatry), but they existed on bathhouse walls
and in some royal palaces.

13. (801) it is without (any) experience of a spirit of its
own: Nicholson translated, "it has no savour (consciousness)
of its own spirit."

14. (803) O you (who) have gambled yourself away in [vain]
combat: means in vain, like a picture of a soldier which is
powerless to fight anything. Nicholson translated, "O you
who have devoted yourself (to contending with others) in
strife..." And he explained about this line and the next:
"The sensual man, ignorant of his real nature, regards
himself as belonging to the world of phenomena, which in his
eyes is other than God, and therefore wastes his life in the
pursuit of mere forms and shadows.... G [= the oldest
manuscript of the Mathnawi] reads [= instead of "dar
paykâr"-- in combat, strife] dar bígár, 'idly',
'fruitlessly'." (Commentary)

15. (803) you have not distinguished others from your
[essential] self: means identifying with the external
appearance of others and the material world, instead of
knowing that all is contained within the self. Nicholson
translated, "you have not known (discriminated) others from

"Although the speech is to Bilqis [= the Queen of
Sheba], yet it is directed to any seekers who consider
others as different than themselves and who are constantly
in combat and quarrel with others. Therefore, Mawlana
(Jalaluddin Rumi) is speaking to anyone among the
(spiritual) seekers: 'O you (who) have gambled yourself away
in [vain] combat (with others), you have not understood the
human reality [Haqîqat-é insânî]. If you could see yourself
with a truth-seeing eye, you would understand that no
otherness is left between you and others. Then, if you would
be free from combat and quarrel, you would comprehend (the
true nature of) humanity with a truth-seeing eye (and) then
I would be you and you would also be me.'"

16. (804) You stop at every form which you reach (and say),
"I am this": "(It means), 'This state is only your opinion
and fantasy, and that condition and form disappears from you
in the end and you are made sorrowful. If it happened that
you were that condition and form, it would not disappear
from you and you would not be made sorrowful.'"
17. (805) (And when) you are left alone from people for a
single moment: "(It means), 'Because... you have been used
to a certain amount of respect, honor, and attention from
people and you have made (your) attachment (to this)
evident...'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

18. (806) since you are [in reality] that singular one:
Nicholson translated, "You are that Unique One..." And he
interpreted: "This and the following verses describe the
haqíqat-i insániyyah [= the reality of being human] as
realised in the Perfect Man." (Commentary)

"(It means), 'But you are that singular one [awHadê]
which is the intended aim of that human reality which is
that which comprises all joys and is the manifestation of
all Divine attributes. That is the (human) reality which is
unique and most excellent which essentially cannot be found
among other (worldly) delights, pleasures, and joys.'"

19. (807) and your own roof: A picturesque way of saying
that the gnostic [= mystic knower] transcends all relations
of 'otherness'. He is self-sufficient: nothing exists that
he cannot find in his own essence." (Nicholson, Commentary)

"(It means), all things exist within your own being, but it
is necessary for you to know yourself and to be the knower
of the (spiritual) reality of yourself so that you may find
salvation from false joys and non-essential pleasures."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

20. (808) The essential substance [jawhar]: the essence of
something, in contrast to its form. These are philosophical
terms which contrast what is substantial/essential with what
is derivative and "accidental" [`araZ]-- meaning whatever
happens to occur externally.

"If a person is unaware of his own essential nature
[jawhariyyat] and is needy and a follower (of what is
external), he is under the rule of external happenings
[`araZ]. But if he obtains awareness of his essential self
and is free of dependence and neediness toward others, he is
under the rule of essence [jawhar]." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

21. (809) (and) see all (your) descendants within yourself:
Nicholson corrected his translation to, "behold all your
progeny in yourself" (from, "and behold all his progeny in
yourself."). He referred to Mathnawi II: 3535, which he
translated, "Formerly, like Adam, I was imprisoned in grief;
now East and West are filled with my spirit's progeny." And
he explained, "Adam was God's Khalífah [= vice-regent], and
his true sons are Perfect Men invested with the Divine Names
and Attributes, which in effect comprise the totality of
existence." (Commentary)

"Since Hazrat-i Adam-- peace be upon him, was aware of
the Divine Names and Attributes [Qur'an 2: 31]. And he saw
all his descendants within himself, prior to their
manifestation, and he glimpsed their secrets and
realities.... If someone sits in the (spiritual) station of
the vice-regent of God and has reached the spiritual degree
of (completed) Humanity [âdamiyyat], he will attain any
outward or spiritual "progeny" from (within) his own being
(which) will be manifested. He will see all (of these), and
will glimpse their special qualities and secrets."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

22. (811) and the heart like a river of water: Nicholson
translated, "and the heart (spirit) is like the river..."
And he explained: "The universe is contained in the infinite
spirit of Man."

"The intended meaning of 'river': it is the heart of
that person who is most (spiritually) completed....
Therefore, one can ask, What exists in the world that is not
in the (spiritually) completed human being [insân-é kâmil]?
In other words: everything that exists in the world is more
so in the heart of the completed (saintly) human being....
This world is like a small jar, and in regard to meaning,
the heart of the completed human is like a great river of
water in relation to it." (Anqaravi, Commentary)


tahdîd ferestâdan-é sulaymân-- `alay-hi 's-salâm-- pêsh-é
bilqîs ke iSrâr ma-y-andêsh bar shirk wa ta'khîr ma-kon

781 hîn be-yâ bilqîs, w-ar-na bad shaw-ad
lashkar-at khaSm-at shaw-ad murtad shaw-ad

782 parda-dâr-é tô dar-at-râ bar kan-ad
jân-é tô bâ tô ba-jân khaSmî kon-ad

. . . . . . .

792 ay namûda Zidd-é Haq dar fi`l-é dars
dar meyân-é lashkar-é ôy-î, be-tars

juzw-é juzw-at lashkar-é ô dar wifâq
mar to-râ aknûn muTî`-and az nifâq

gar be-gôy-ad chashm-râ k-ô-râ foshâr
dard-é chashm az tô bar âr-ad Sad damâr

795 w-ar ba-dandân gôy-ad ô be-n'mâ wabâl
pas be-bîn-î tô ze-dandân gôsh-mâl

bâz kon Tib-râ, be-khwân bâbu 'l-`ilal
tâ be-bîn-î lashkar-é to-râ `amal

chûn-ke jân-é jân-é har chêzê way-ast
doshmanî bâ jân-é jân âsân kay-ast

khwad rahâ kon lashkar-é dêw-o parî
k-az meyân-é jân kon-and-am Saf-darî

mulk-râ be-g'Zâr bilqîs az nokhost
chûn ma-râ yâb-î hama-yé mulk ân-é to-st

800 khwad be-dân-î chûn bar-é man âmad-î
ke tô bê-man, naqsh-é garm-âba bod-î

naqsh agar khwad naqsh-é sulTân yâ ghanî-st
Sûrat-ast az jân-é khwad bê-châshnî-st

zînat-é ô az barây-é dêgar-ân
bâz karda bê-hoda chashm-o dahân

ay tô dar paykâr khwad-râ bâkhta
dêgar-ân-râ tô ze-khwad na-'sh'nâkhta

tô ba-har Sûrat ke ây-î, b-êst-î
ke man-am în, w-allâh ân tô nêst-î

805 yak zamân tan-hâ be-mân-î tô ze-khalq
dar gham-o andêsha mân-î tâ ba Halq

în tô kay bâsh-î? ke tô ân awHad-î
ke khwash-o zîbâ-wo sar-mast-é khwad-î

morgh-é khwêsh-î, Sayd-é khwêsh-î, dâm-é khwêsh
Sadr-é khwêsh-î, farsh-é khwêsh-î, bâm-é khwêsh

jawhar ân bâsh-ad ke qâyim bâ khwad-ast
ân `araZ bâsh-ad ke far`-é ô shod-ast

gar tô âdam-zâda-î, chûn ô neshîn
jumla-yé Zarriyyât-râ dar khwad be-bîn

810 chêst andar khom ke andar nahr nêst?
chêst andar khâna k-andar shahr nêst?

811 în jahân khomm-ast-o del chûn jôy-é âb
în jahân Hujra-st-o del shahr-é `ujâb

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)