Solomon and Bilqis (part two)

Mathnawi IV: 845-869

The remainder of the story of the people of Saba, and the
advice and guidance of Solomon-- (may) the peace (of God) be
upon him-- to the people of Bilqis (the Queen of Sheba):
everyone (was guided) in accordance with his own (needs) and
his (particular) problems of religion and the heart.1 And
(about Solomon's) snaring every kind of bird of secret
thought2 with a (bird-catcher's) whistle for that
(particular) kind of bird and its (favorite) seeds.

845 I will tell the story of (the people of) Saba in the
manner of longing love:3 When the morning breeze4 reached to
the tulip garden,5

The figures in the distance met on the day of their
union, (and) the children ran (back) to their home.6

Among the (various) peoples, the secret people of Love7
are like a generosity surrounded by the stinginess of poor

The (shameful) lowliness of spirits is from their
bodies, (but) the magnificence of bodies is from their

O you lovers (of God)! The (wine) cup is offered
(especially) to you, (so) you are immortal and eternity is
given to you.

850 O you who have consoled yourselves and forgotten!9 Stand
up and love (again)! That10 is the breeze of Joseph, so draw
in (the scent)!11

(O knower of) the Solomonic (ability12 to understand the)
"speech of the birds"!13 Come (and) sing the sound of every
bird which arrives.14

Since God has sent you to the birds, he has given you
lessons (about) the melodies of each (kind of) bird.

Speak the language of predestination to the bird of (the
sect believing in Divine) compulsion.15 (And) speak about
patience16 to the bird of broken wing.

Keep the patient bird (in a) cheerful (mood) and free
(from pain and worry). And inspire the phoenix bird17 with
descriptions of Mt. Qaf.18

855 Teach the pigeon about (being) wary of the falcon,19
(and) tell the falcon about kindly patience and control (of

And regarding any bat which has remained stuck and
helpless (in darkness),21 make it associated and familiar
with the light.

Teach peace and reconciliation to the warlike
partridge,22 (and) show the signs of the dawn to the

In the same way, go from the hoopoe24 to the eagle (and)
indicate the way. And God knows best the right way.

(About) Bilqis' becoming free from (attachment to her)
kingdom and (her) becoming drunk from yearning for the
(true) faith. And the focus of her aspiration becoming
detached, at the time of her (spiritual) emigration, from
(her) entire kingdom-- except from (her) throne.

When Solomon made a single whistling sound to the birds
of Saba, all of them (became) bound and fettered,

860 Except, perhaps, any bird that was lacking vitality and
wings; or one which was deaf and speechless from the
beginning, like a fish.

No, I've spoken in error. Because if the deaf man should
lay his head in front of the inspiration of the (Divine)
Grandeur,25 it will give him hearing.

When Bilqis resolved in (her) heart and soul (to go to
Solomon), she also felt regret for the past.26

She abandoned wealth and kingdom in the same manner as
the lovers (of God), with (their) abandonment of (concern
for) reputation and disgrace.27

To her eyes, those delightful male slaves and servant
girls (of hers) resembled rotten onions.

865 Because of love, gardens and palaces and river ways
appeared (like) a heap of ashes to her eyes.

(For) love, during the time of (jealous) domination and
anger, makes lovely ones (to appear) ugly to the eye.

The jealousy of love causes every emerald to appear (as
no more than) a leek.28 This is the meaning of "(There is)

O (seeker of) refuge,30 (the meaning of) "There is no
divinity except Him"31 is this: that the (beautiful full)
moon should appear (to you as) a blackened pot.

869 No (loss of) wealth, treasures, or rich furniture were
regretted by her except for (her) throne.32

--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" (, 8/3/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (Heading) problems of religion and the heart: Nicholson
translated, "religious and spiritual difficulties."

2. (Heading) every kind of bird of secret thought: means
that Solomon was able to "capture" the secret thoughts of
each person. God gave Solomon the ability to understand the
speech of birds (Qur'an 27:16). Nicholson translated, "each
sort of conceptual bird."

"Just as in the case of wise spiritual guides
[murshid-ân-é `ârif] and knowers of languages who, in the
same way, in the sense of (the saying of the Prophet),
'Speak to people according to the amount of their
understanding [kalamû 'n-nâsa `alà qadri `aqûla-him].'"
(Anqaravi, the 17th century Turkish commentator, translated
here into English from a Persian translation)

3. (845) in the manner of longing love: the following five
couplets are in Arabic.

4. (845) the morning breeze [Sabâ]: a word play on the
people of sabâ.

5. (845) When the morning breeze reached to the tulip
garden: means when the beloved arrived to the longing lover.
"I.e. when Solomon's message reached Sabá." (Nicholson,
Footnote) "The intended meaning: In the same manner that the
morning breeze blows upon the tulip field and bestows
freshness and delicateness, the pure breath of Solomon--
peace be upon him-- also resembles the morning breeze for
the people of Saba and it bestows a fresh and thriving
state." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

6. (846) toward their home: Nicholson translated, "The
bodies met (experienced) the day of their union (with the
spirits which dwell in them)..." And he explained: "I.e. the
people of Sabá rejoiced as on the day when their spirits
entered their bodies." (Footnote) "(It means) the joy of the
people of Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba in the same manner as
the joy of bodies from meeting spirits [= in the womb]....
In the same way that children at the time of returning to
their homes become happy and become joyous from the sight of
their fathers and mothers." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

7. (847) the hidden people of Love: Nicholson translated,
"the community of secret Love." "The people of Love are
concealed and hidden among the people." "The explanation:
the lovers among the peoples resemble a generous people...
(around) whose sides are a people of much stinginess and
avarice." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

8. (847) a generosity surrounded by the stinginess of poor
health: Nicholson translated, "like a liberality surrounded
by the meanness of (spiritual) distemper." And he explained:
"The self-devotion and self-sacrifice (júd) of Súfís is
contrasted with its opposite quality (lu'm) [= stinginess].
Fa [= Anqaravi], like most commentaries, reads (quite
indefensibly) lawm, i.e. hostile criticism of mystics by
worldly folk." (Commentary) The last line describes people
who are withholding and stingy due to the misery of poor

9. (850) O you who have consoled yourselves and forgotten:
Nicholson translated, "O ye that are forgetful." Anqaravi
understood it according the full meaning of the key word--
someone who has been given a magical potion to remove and
forget the sorrow of failed love: "O people whose hearts are
empty of the longing-sorrow of love [gham-é `ishq], and who
are happy without the love of the Beloved! Rise up and
become lovers (of God)!" (Commentary)

10. (850) That: "Dháka [= That] refers to the message of
Solomon, i.e. the inspiring words and influence (nafs) of
the Perfect Man." (Nicholson, Commentary) "The breeze of
Joseph is truly this Solomonic breath and godly blowing."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

11. (850) the breeze of Joseph, so draw in (the scent): a
frequent metaphor in Rumi's writings regarding the longing
of Jacob for his missing son Joseph. He said, "Truly I smell
the presence of Joseph," and when Joseph's shirt was thrown
over his face he regained his sight (Qur'an 12:94, 96) and
was soon re-united with his son.

12. (851) (O knower of) the Solomonic (ability: Nicholson
referred to the same wording in II 3758, and added: "Here it
[= the reference] seems likely that Husámu'ddín [= Rumi's
closest disciple and first successor, to whom he dictated
the Mathnawi] is addressed." (Nicholson, Commentary)

13. (851) sing the sound of every bird which arrives: "(It
means), 'O godly spiritual guide [murshid]: (in regard to)
every "bird" which belongs to a group of (spiritual)
seekers, speak with the language of that bird, in the sense
of (the saying of the Prophet, "Speak to people according to
their amount of understanding"-- so that it may profit from
you..." "It means, 'O spiritual guide and knower of the
speech (of disciples), (you) who are the Solomon of the
present time!'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

14. (851) "speech of the birds" [mantiqu 'T-Tayr]: "And
Solomon... said, 'O people! We have been taught the speech
of the birds, and have been given (something) of (the
goodness) of all things. This is certainly a manifest favor
(from God)." (Qur'an 27:16) This phrase is also the title of
a famous epic ("The Speech of the Birds") by the sufi poet
Fariduddin `Attar (died 1221).

15. (853) Divine) compulsion: the Islamic school of thought
which taught that there is no individual free-will, but that
everything which occurs is predestined by the Divine Will.
This extremist belief is also called Necessitarianism. Rumi
taught that there is both free-will and predestination, and
he emphasized the virtues of personal striving. Nicholson
explained that the meaning of this verse is: "i.e. 'teach
Necessitarians the true doctrine of necessity (jabr-i
mahmúd)' [= the best understanding about predestination]."
Elsewhere, Nicholson described this: "Necessitarians who
assert that Divine omnipotence... excludes the possibility
of free action on the part of Man. Such a view implies
separation between the creature and the Creator, the
opposition of two wills, and the subjugation of the weaker.
But mystics, who know God to be Love and themselves one with
Him, are not 'compelled'; on the contrary they enjoy the
unconstrained rapture (bí-sabrí) of self-abandonment and the
perfect freedom of feeling and acting in harmony with the
will of their Beloved." (Commentary)

"The intended meaning: 'Speak in praise about (Divine)
compulsion to any people who have a blameworthy belief in
Necessitarianism... (so that) they may reach moderation--
meaning the (true Islamic) school of the people of the
(Prophet Muhammad's) ways and beliefs and congregation
[ahl-é sunnat wa jamâ`at =the majority belief of Sunni
Islam]." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

16. (853) about patience: Nicholson translated, "of patience
(quietism)." [= Quietism was a kind of mysticism taught in
the Nineteenth Century, often viewed as advocating extreme
passivity.] "It means, 'to those left in suffering who have
been broken by the effects of poverty and misfortune, speak
about being patient. And speak to them about the (Divine)
reward for being patient.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

17. (854) the phoenix bird [morgh-é `anqâ]: refers to a
mythical and miraculous bird (also called sîmorgh), whose
home was the mountain of Qaf, which was said to surround the
entire earth.

18. (854) descriptions of Mt. Qaf: "the attributes of the
Divine Essence, which is the mystic's home." (Nicholson,

"The intended meaning of the phoenix bird is the people
of (spiritual) seeking, who have chosen seclusion in the
corner of contentment. And the meaning of Qaf (mountain) is
Divine nearness and the place of Origin and Truth.
Therefore, the meaning of the verse (is): 'Speak to the
seeker of the path of the phoenix about nearness to the
Divine and the place of Origin and Truth. And encourage him
to that direction.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

19. (855) the pigeon... the falcon: "The 'pigeon' and the
'falcon' may be types of the mu'min [= true believer] and
the zálim [wrongdoer]; but other interpretations are
possible." (Nicholson, Commentary)

"The intended meaning of 'pigeon': here it is weak
creatures. And the intended meaning of 'falcon': it is the
rich and powerful who are ruling and holding firm to power."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

20. (855) about kindly patience and control (of desires):
Nicholson translated, "speak of forbearance and being on its
guard (against acting unjustly)." "(It means), 'Speak words
about gentleness and clemency and command them to avoid
injustice and oppression.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)
21. (856) any bat which has remained stuck and helpless (in
darkness): Nicholson translated, "the bat that is left
destitute (of spiritual illumination)..." The bat was
believed to be blind and ignorant of the existence of
light-- and thus is, for Rumi, a symbol of spiritual

"(It means), 'In regard to those who follow the ways of
the bat and are dedicated to wrongdoing, who remain without
a portion of Divine lights or of spiritual illumination,
make them familiar with the Divine lights and with the
favors of Divine secrets.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

22. (857) the warlike partridge: "would well describe the
attitude of zealous theologians when engaged in
controversy." (Nicholson, Commentary) Anqaravi referred to
the verse: "And if two groups of believers quarrel, make
peace between them.... Truly, the believers are a (single)
brotherhood, so make peace between your two (differing)
brothers. And be in reverential awe toward God, so you may
receive mercy." (Qur'an 49:9-10).

23. (857) show the signs of the dawn to the roosters: "It
means: 'Show the signs and effects of the dawn of Truth to
those who praise and glorify God at the blessed time (prior
to) dawn and ask forgiveness [istaghfâr], so that their
souls may become illuminated and their hearts may become
full of the lights and splendor of God.'" (Anqaravi,

24. (858) the hoopoe: a type of bird. In the story of
Solomon and Bilqis, a hoopoe surveyed the kingdom of Saba
(Sheba), and then returned and gave Solomon a description of
it (Qur'an 27:20-26).

25. (861) in front of the inspiration of the (Divine)
Grandeur: "Because, (concerning) the one whose spiritual
ears are deaf, if there is acknowledgment of his own
blindness; and (if) he places his head [= humbly and with
neediness] in the presence of the prophets (of God), who are
the locus of the inspiration [= revelation] of God, the
Owner of Majesty and Grandeur; and (if) he confesses,
saying, 'I lack spiritual hearing, so I am ignorant and
heedless'-- God most High will give him spiritual hearing.
And he will reach the level where he is able to hear the
Word of God." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

26. (862) she also felt regret for the past: "She felt
regret for (her) past ignorance and lack of awareness (= of
the One True God)." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

27. (863) abandonment of (concern for) reputation and
disgrace: Those who love only God, and who have abandoned
all other worldly loves, have no concerns about either
protecting good reputations or avoiding social condemnation
and disgrace.

28. (867) (as no more than) a leek: a common vegetable,
related to the onion. "(It means), 'It appears as (like) a
small and unimportant leek.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

29. (867) This is the meaning of "(There is) not": refers to
a frequent verse in the Qur'an "There is not any divinity
except Him [lâ ilâha illâ hû] (as in 28:88). This is a
rejection that anything in creation possesses divinity or
divine qualities (such as Divine Beauty, Power, Wisdom,
etc.), which leads to the affirmation that only the One True
God is divine and has divine qualities. It is a form of the
basic creed of Islam (which occurs twice in the Qur'an,
47:19; 37:35): "There is no divinity except God" [lâ ilâha
illâ 'llâh]. The meaning is rejecting worship and love of
everything except God. "It means, 'In the view of the lover,
they (all other beloveds) appear as lowly, contemptible, and
without importance.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

30. (868) O (seeker of) refuge: "(It means), 'O seeker of
protection.... who are the seeker of a (protecting)
fortress and refuge for the sake of deliverance from the
punishment of God...'" (Anqaravi, Commentary) Nicholson
translated differently as, "O (thou who givest)
protection..." And he explained: "I.e. 'thou who art rich
and powerful and able to extend patronage to others."
(Nicholson, Footnote) And he also wrote: "referring to one
whose patronage is sought." (Commentary)

31. (868) "There is no divinity except Him" [lâ ilâh illâ
hû]: shortened here for metrical purposes (from the correct
form: lâ ilâha illâ huwa).

32. (869) except for (her) throne: According to Rumi's story, Bilqis,
the Queen of Sheba, was willing to surrender her entire kingdom
(in her submission to Solomon and the One God)-- except her
throne, to which she was very attached. Solomon asked someone in
his court to transport it miraculously to Jerusalem. One of the jinn
(genies) offered to use his power to transport it. Then someone
inspired by knowledge of Revelation (traditionally known as Asaf)
offered to bring it even faster and the throne appeared instantly,
which was a great surprise to Bilqis when she arrived to his palace
(Qur'an 27:39-42). And this is also Rumi's explanation: the throne
was not transported by the magic of a demon, but through the
spiritual power of Solomon's chief minister, Asaf (IV: 904-906).

"This is the indicated meaning: the seeker, possessed
with the (spiritual) state of (traveling on) 'the journey to
God' [sayr ilà 'llâh], cuts attachment from all possessions
and from all things except from the throne of the body."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)


baqiyya-yé qiSSa-yé ahl-é sabâ wa naSiHat wa irshâd-é
sulaymân-- `alay-hi 's-salâm, âl-é bilqîs-râ har yakê-râ
andar khwor-é khwad wa mushkilât-é dîn wa del-é ô wa
Sayd-kardan-é har jins-é morgh-é Zamîrê ba-Safîr-é ân
jins-é morgh wa Ta`ma-yé ô

845 qiSSa gôy-am az sabâ mushtâq-wâr
chûn Sabâ âmad ba-sôy-é lâla-zâr

lâqati 'l-'ashbâHu yawma waSli-hâ
`âdati 'l-awlâdu Sawba 'aSli-hâ

ummatu 'l-`ishqi 'l-khafiyyi fî 'l-'umam
mithlu jûd-in Hawla-hu lû'mu 's-saqam

Zillatu 'l-'arwâHi min 'ashbâHi-hâ
`izzatu 'l-ashbâHi min arwâHi-hâ

'ayyu-hâ 'l-`ushshâqu as-suqyâ la-kum
'antumu 'l-bâqûna wa 'l-buqyâ la-kum

850 'ayyu-hâ 's-sâlûna qûmû w-a`shiqû
Zâka rîHu yûsuf-in fa 'stansiqû

manTiqu 'T-Tayr-é sulaymânî be-y-â
bâng-é har morgê ke ây-ad, mê-serâ

chûn ba-morg-ân-at ferestâd-ast Haq
laHn-é har morghê be-dâst-ast-at sabaq

morgh-é jabrî-râ zabân-é jabr gô
morgh-é parr-ishkasta-râ az Sabr gô

morgh-é Sâbir-râ tô khwash dâr-o mu`âf
morgh-é `anqâ-râ be-khwân awSâf-é qâf

855 mar kabûtar-râ HaZar farmâ ze-bâz
bâz-râ az Hilm gô-wo iHtirâz

w-ân khufâshê-râ ke mând ô bê-nawâ
mê-kon-ash bâ nûr joft-o âshnâ

kabg-é jangî-râ be-y-âmôzân tô SulH
mar khorôs-ân-râ nomâ ashrâT-é SubH

ham-chon-ân mê-raw ze-hudhud tâ `uqâb
rah nomâ, w-allâhu 'a`lam bi' 'S-sawâb

âzâd-shodan-é bilqîs az mulk wa mast-shodan-é ô
az shawq-é îmân wa iltifât-é himmat-é ô
az hama-yé mulk munqaTi`-shodan waqt-é hijrat
illâ az takht

chûn sulaymân sôy-ê morgh-ân-é sabâ
yak Safîrê kard, bast ân jumla-râ

860 joz magar morghê ke bod bê-jân-o par
yâ chô mâhê gong bûd az aSl kar

nay ghalaT goft-am ke kar gar sar neh-ad
pêsh-é waHy-é kibriyâ, sam`-ash deh-ad

chûn-ke bilqîs az del-o jân `azm kard
bar zamân-é rafta ham afsôs khward

tark-é mâl-o mulk kard ô ân-chon-ân
ke ba-tark-é nâm-o nang ân `âshiq-ân

ân ghulâm-ân-o konîz-ân-é ba-nâz
pêsh-é chashm-ash ham-chô pôsîda-peyâz

865 bâgh-hâ-wo qaSr-hâ-wo âb-é rûd
pésh-é chashm az `ishq golkhan mê-namûd

`ishq dar hangâm-é istîlâ-wo khashm
zesht gardân-ad laTîf-ân-râ ba-chashm

har zumurrad-râ nomây-ad gandnâ
ghayrat-é `ishq în bow-ad ma`niyy-é lâ

lâ ilâh illâ hû în-ast ay panâh
ke nomây-ad mah to-râ dêg-é seyâh

869 hêch mâl-o hêch makhzan, hêch rakht
mê-darîgh-ash n-âm-ad illâ joz ke takht

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)