Moses and Pharaoh (part three)

Mathnawi IV: 2384-2405, 2415-2417, 2423-2429

The explanation that every human sense of perception has
different perceptions of which the understandings of the other
senses are unaware-- just as every master artisan is ignorant of the
trade of another master artisan. And its ignorance of that which is
not its task does not prove that those (different) perceptions do not
exist. Although because of the circumstances, it is denying those
(perceptions), yet we don't wish at this point (for) its denial here
(to mean anything) except ignorance.1

2384 (Moses said to Pharaoh), "The circumference of your view of
the world2 is your perception. Your impure senses are the veil
(hiding) the pure ones.3

2385 Wash (your) senses for a time with the water of
contemplation.4 Know that this is like the clothes-washing of the

"When you become cleansed, the spirit of the pure ones will
tear away the veil6 (and) will contact you.

"Even if the world is (all) light and (beautiful) forms,
(only) the eyes would be aware of that beauty.

"(If) you close your eye (and) bring (your) ear forward so
that you may show it the curls and cheeks of a (beautiful) idol,7

"(Your) ear will say, 'I can't be pleased with a form, (but)
if the form makes a noise, I can hear (it);

2390 "'I am knowing, but (only) in my own area of knowledge.
My skill is nothing more than (hearing) a word or a shout.'

"(And if you say), 'Come, quickly (O) nose (and) see this
beautiful one.'-- the nose is not suitable for this desired

"(Your nose will say), 'If there is musk and rose-water
I can smell it. This is my skill, understanding, and knowledge.

"'I will never see the face of that silver-legged (beauty).
Take care, (and) don't order what can't be done.'

"Again, the crooked sense can't see other than (what is)
crooked,8 whether crawling crookedly before Him or crawling

2395 "Know for certain, O helpful master,1 (that) the squinting
eye11 is (far) removed from (being able) to see Oneness.

"You who are a Pharaoh,12 (are) entirely fraudulent and
hypocritical. (Therefore), you don't know (any) difference
between me and yourself.

"Don't look at me through yourself, O crooked gambler, so
that you may not see the single as two-fold.

"(Instead), look at me through me for a time,13 so that you
may see an open region beyond (worldly) existence,14

"(So that) you may escape from distress, shame, and [concern
about] reputation, (and so that) you may experience love within
love. And peace be upon you!"

2400 "Then, when you are freed from the body15 you will know
(how it is possible for your) ear and nose to become an eye."16

That king with a sweet tongue17 has said every hair of the
mystic knowers18 becomes an eye.

The eye certainly had no eye (to see with) in the beginning,
(for) it was in the womb and an embryo (that was just a piece) of

Don't consider the (white) fat (of the eye19 to be) the cause
of seeing, O son. (For) otherwise no one could see images and
forms in a dream.

The jinn and the demon20 see images, (yet) there is no fat in
the place of vision of either.21

2405 (In the beginning) there was no connection, in itself,
between light and the fat (of the eye),22 (since) the (Most)
Loving Creator gave its connection.23

. . . . . . .

2415 If the Nile (River) had not had that light and vision, how
did it choose an Egyptian from an Israelite?24

If the rocky mountain was not possessed of vision, then how
did it become a friend to David?25

2417 (And) if the earth had not had a spiritual eye, how did it
swallow Qaroon26 that way?

. . . . . . .

2423 (Moses said to Pharaoh), "My being sent to you, (O) prince,
is a proof that the Sender was aware

"That a remedy such as this is appropriate for easing27 [the
hardship of your having] such an infected sore.28

2425 "Before this, you had seen dreams (showing) that God was
going to choose me.29

"(And that) I, (having) taken the staff and the Light in
(my) hand,30 would break your arrogant horn.

"(It was) for this (that) the Lord of Religion was showing
you various horrible dreams,

"Fit for your bad conscience and extreme rebelliousness-- so
that you might understand that He is the Knower of (what is)
suitable for you.

2429 "(And) so that you might understand that He is (All) Wise
and Aware, and the Healer of diseases resistant to medicine."

--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" (,12/7/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (Heading) except ignorance: Nicholson translated, "Although it
virtually denies them, yet here in this place we only mean by its
'denial' its ignorance." And he explained: "Every physical sense
has percepts peculiar to itself, in which its pleasure consists; and
because it is ignorant of the percepts of the other senses, it
'virtually denies them', just as legalists deny the percepts of 'the
sixth sense which mystics call "reason" or "light" or "the heart",
etc.' [= quoted from Al-Ghazali]. But this denial is not founded on
reality. Each sense is potentially capable of enjoying the percepts
of all the rest and, when purified by gnosis [= mystical knowledge]
and spiritualised, actually does so (see II 3236-3241 and the notes
ad loc.)." (Commentary)

2. (2384) The circumference of your view of the world: Nicholson
translated, "the measure of thy vision of the world." And he
explained: "i.e. 'the extent to which you see into the truth of
things.'" (Commentary) "(It means), 'The circumference and
measure of seeing the world is in accordance with the amount of
your perception.... If your perception is meager, you will see this
world also as slight and small.'" (Translated here from a Persian
translation of Anqaravi's famous 17th century Turkish commentary
on the Mathnawi/Masnavi)

3. (2384) Your impure senses are the veil (hiding) the pure ones:
Nicholson translated, "thy impure senses are the veil (which
prevents thee from having sight) of the pure (holy men)." "The
intended meaning of 'pure ones' is the (pious) people of God..... (It
means), 'That which is between you and those pure ones is a veil.
And the barrier to your perception is love of those impure senses of
yours.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

4. (2385) contemplation [`ayân]: Nicholson translated,
"clairvoyance." "(It means), 'O rebellious person, for a while wash
your senses with the water of witnessing [shuhûd] and
contemplation [`ayân].... (so that) each one may become
illuminated by the light of certainty and clarity [`ayân] and be
washed and pure.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

5. (2385) this is like the clothes-washing of the sufis: "i.e. inward
purification. Cf. Qur. LXXIV 4: wa-thiyábaka fa-tahhir' [= "And
purify your garments"] of where Baydáwí [= a famous
commentator on the Qur'an] paraphrases: 'purge thyself of evil
dispositions and vile actions'. The word is frequently applied to
Súfís in this sense, e.g. jáma-shúyí kuníd Súfí-wár [= "Wash (your)
clothes in the sufi manner'] (Díwán, Tab. 23, 6, marg.). [= Ghazal
1137, line 12537: jâma-shôyî kon-ém Sûfî-wâr-- "we are washing
our clothes like the sufis"] There is a fine description of the saint as
a 'launderer' at V 200 sqq. [= Book Five of the Mathnawi]."
(Nicholson, Commentary) "In the 'Nafahaat' [= by the sufi Persian
poet Jâmî` (died, 1492)] is related about Shaykh Abu 'l-Hasan
Kharaqânî [= died, 1034], '(Who) said, "I saw the Prophet in a
dream. He told me, 'O Abu 'l-Hasan, cleanse "your garments"
from stains with the help of God in every moment.'" Therefore, I
understood that the meaning of "garments" was the qualities of my
own ego [nafs].'" (Anqaravi, Commentary) It was always
understood by authorities on the Arabic language that the word
"sufi" derives from the Arabic word "Sûf," which means "wool"
(pious ascetics had long worn woolen garments). However, there
was an irresistible association among Sufis (including Rumi) with
the word "Sâf," which means "purity."

6. (2386) will tear away the veil [parda bar kan-ad]: Nicholson
translated, "will tear off the veil and attach itself to thee."
However, Anqaravi read it as "will raise the veil." (Commentary)
And Nicholson later wrote, "Bar kunad [= will raise] is perhaps the
better reading here." (Commentary) "(It means), 'If you become
cleansed from being inwardly stained and from spiritual impurities,
the veils will be raised from (your) spiritual eyes.... The spirits of
the pure ones will become close to you, and you will be able to
witness the sight of those holy spirits." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

7. (2388) a (beautiful) idol: an idiom meaning a beautiful beloved--
so attractive as to be almost worthy of "worship." Nicholson
translated, "an adorable beauty."

8. (2394) the crooked sense can't see other than (what is) crooked:
Nicholson translated, "... the crooked (perverted) sense hath naught
but crooked (perverse) perceptions..."

9. (2394) whether crawling crookedly before Him or crawling
straight: Means, even if it is for a time going moving directly
toward God, it will continue to see crookedly. Nicholson
translated, "(so) go crookedly into His presence or go straight, as
thou wilt (it matters not)." And he explained: "Comparison with II
3763-3765 [= which Nicholson translated the last line as: "'And
(even by) thy hopping lamely and limply in that direction, thou
wilt be freed from all lameness and limpness."] suggests that the
meaning of the second hemistich may be: '(rectify your false
perceptions, and then) draw nigh unto God, no matter whether your
progress be easy or difficult.' I think it more likely, however, that
the verse means: 'So long as your perceptions are false, you will
see double: choose, then, whether (at the Resurrection) you will
come into God's presence as a mushrik [= a polytheist: one who
"associates" the One True God together with other imagined
divinities] or as a muwahhid [= one who declares that God is One
only]. '" (Commentary)

10. (2395) O helpful master [ay khwâja-yé mu`în]: "Nicholson
translated, "O Khwája who aidest (the true Religon)." And he
explained: "This may refer to Mu`inu'ddín, the Parwána of Rúm,
who is said to have been one of the poet's disciples." (Footnote).
Nicholson's speculation about this led him to state: "The probable
reference to Mu`ínu'ddín raises a question as to the authenticity of
the reading." And he then quoted a variant from another 13th
century manuscript. (Commentary) However, Nicholson's
translation, portraying such a positive meaning, is unsuitable as an
address to Pharaoh in the context of the story. Anqaravi
commented on this phrase and at one point translated, "O sir, [ay
khwâja] who are a searcher for the truth...." (Commentary)

11. (2395) the squinting eye: means an eye with poor vision, or
cross-eyed vision-- which causes someone to see double. It means
that a double-seeing person cannot see what is single-- in this case,
the Divine Unity.

12. (2396) You who are a Pharaoh: "Here the speaker is the 'Moses' of
whom the Moslem saint is a type." (Nicholson, footnote)
"Basically, the intended meaning of 'Moses'-- peace be upon him,
is the perfected spiritual guide [murshid-é kâmil] with a Moses
(like) nature in every age, (and) who has qualities corresponding to
the heart of a Moses. And the intended meaning of 'Pharaoh' is
those with a Pharaoh (like) nature who have been transgressing
(the just bounds of) the path of God." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

13. (2398) Look at me through me for a time: "It means, 'If you wish
to see my self (as I am) and (my) lofty (spiritual) rank, it is
necessary that you should look at me for a while with a light of
certainty which may be gained from me..." (Anqaravi,

14. (2398) an open region beyond (worldly) existence: Nicholson
translated, "that thou mayst behold a spacious region beyond
(phenomenal) existence." And he explained: "Through faná
fí'l-Shaykh [= mystical annihilation in the spiritual consciousness
of the sufi master]... the muríd [= disciple] attains to vision of the
Truth." (Commentary)

15. (2400) when you are freed from the body: means when you are no
longer identified and overly attached to the body, you will be freed
from the restrictions of the senses. "(It means), 'And you find
deliverance from the needs of the body.... and the craving demands
of the body and its chains..." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

16. (2400) for your ear and nose to become an eye: this is known
scientifically today as synthesis, the ability (of rare persons) to see
colors when hearing sounds (and other sensory combinations).
Here, Rumi may also mean that when the spiritual senses are
activated, various kinds of knowledge can be gained which are as
certain as direct seeing.

17. (2401) That king with a sweet tongue: Here, Rumi begins
commenting (more directly) in his own voice. Nicholson stated in
a footnote that the "king" probably refers to the Persian sufi poet,
Sanâ`î (died, 1131). However, he later changed his mind: "Fa [=
Anqaravi] says that probably Saná'í or `Attár is meant; but I have
very little doubt that this is a description of Báyazíd-i Bistámí [= d.
875], 'the prince of gnostics' (sultánu 'l-`árifín). The commentary
in the Cawnpore edition of the Mathnawí (A.H. 1317) [= 1899]
attributes to him the saying, lá yasíru 'l-rajulu mina 'l-`árifín hattá
yasíra kullu sha`ir-in minhu `ayn-an názirat-an, 'No man becomes
a gnostic [= mystic knower] until every hair of him becomes a
seeing eye.' Delete note I in the Translation, p. 405." Nicholson
also referred to I: 1406 [which he translated as, "Man is eye, and
(all) the rest is (worthless) skin: the sight of that (eye) is (consists
in) seeing the Beloved"], regarding which he explained: "Man is
man in virtue of the inward eye with which he is potentially
capable of contemplating Reality and becoming 'the eye of the
eternal Light' (II 18)." (Commentary)

18. (2401) the mystic knowers [`arif-ân]: Nicholson translated,
"gnostics." "(It refers) to a person who knows God and is the
possessor of (spiritual) insight [baSîrat]. And (spiritual) insight is a
light which is flowing in all the essential faculties and is the
perceiver and knower, in every part, of that (area)." (Anqaravi,

19. (2403) the (white) fat of the eye: Nicholson translated, "the fat (the
white of the eye)..." "According to Aristotle... the white of the eye
in sanguineous [= warm-blooded] animals is fat and oily in order
that the moisture of the eye may be a proof against freezing."
"Moslem oculists [= opthamologists] generally adopted the theory
of Galen and other Greeks that vision is produced by rays of light
emitted from the eyes.... Rúmí says (I 1126) that the light of the
eye is derived from the light of the heart." "The 'sensible light',
though ultimately derived from the Light of God, dwells in the eye,
from which it shoots forth in order to meet the sunlight. Physical
vision is produced by the emission of these rays." (Commentary)

20. (2304) The jinn and the demon [parî-wo dêw]: The jinn, or genies,
are an invisible class of creatures. The Qur'an seems to speak of
the jinn as a parallel creation with humanity, since "the jinn and
mankind" is a pairing of words which occurs in a number of
places. The Qur'an speaks of some jinn as true and faithful
believers in God, others as tricksters or evil demons (the Persian
word "dêv" or "dîv" is related to the English word "devil"). The
Arabic word "jinn" was translated into Persian by the old "parî,"
which had meant "fairy."

21. (2404) there is no fat in the place of vision of either: means there is
no physical flesh which might be the cause of vision of such
non-physical creatures.

22. (2405) there was, in itself, no connection between light and the fat
(of the eye): Nicholson referred to VI: 1019-1020, which he
translated: "Even as He hath caused the light to flow from the
fountain of your eye without stint or abatement: It has no source of
supply either in the fat (the white of the eye) or in the coating
(retina); (but) the Beloved made (these) a veil (for Himself) when
bringing (the light) into existence."

23. (2405) (since) the (Most) Loving Creator gave its connection:
"God, Most Blessed and Exalted, gave light to the white part (of
the eyes) and created seeing." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

24. (2415) how was it able to choose an Egyptian from an Israelite:
refers to one of the plagues sent by God upon the Egyptians
(Qur'an 7:133; in the Bible: Exodus) in which the Nile River
appeared to Egyptians as blood and to the Israelites as pure water.

25. (4216) The mountain... then how did it become a friend to David?:
refers to a verse in the Qur'an relating to the Prophet David's
praising God (as in the Psalms), which God inspired him with:
"And truly We gave David grace: 'O mountains, sing back the
praises of God with him! And (you) birds (also)!" (34:10; see also
21:79) Nicholson referred to III: 4268-70, which he translated:
"The face of David shone with His glory: the mountains sang
plaintively after him. The mountain became an accompanist to
David: both the minstrels (were) drunken in love for a King. Came
the (Divine) command, 'O ye mountains, repeat (the praise of
God': both joined their voices and kept the tune together."

26. (2417) (And)... the earth... how did it swallow Qaroon: refers to
Qârûn, a wealthy man who rebelled against Moses" (Qur'an 28:81;
29:39; see the story of Korah in the Bible: Numbers 16).

27. (2424) for easing [maysûr]: Nicholson translated, "for the purpose
of success (in curing it)." "It means, 'O Pharaoh, know this: that
this staff in my hand and this likeness of a dragon is like a bitter
remedy. And your denial and rebellion (toward God) are like a
wound not accepting healing.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

28. (2424) such an infected sore: Nicholson translated, "such a
desperate malady." "It is said (to mean) a wound not accepting
healing. Here, the intended meaning is the spiritual sickness of
Pharaoh, such as the illnesses of denial and rebelliousness (toward
God), arrogance and pride-- which as had been firmly manifested
in him." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

29. (2425) you had seen dreams (showing) that God was going to
choose me: Nicholson translated, "Heretofore thou hadst seen
visions (warning thee) that God would choose me out (to go to
thee)..." "It means, 'Before my appearance, you had seen dreams
that God Most High would choose me and would dominate over
you and show you to be contemptible and lowly.'" (Anqaravi,

30. (2426) I, (having) taken the staff and the Light in (my) hand: refers
to a verse in the Qur'an which mentions Moses' staff together with
the miracle of the white hand of Moses: "Then he threw his staff,
(and) it was a snake, clearly (seen). And he drew out his hand,
(and) it was (shining) white to all observers." (7:107-108; see also
26:32-33; 27:12; see Exodus, iv). "The commentators say that núr
[= light] refers to 'the white hand' (yad-i baydá) of Moses."
(Nicholson, Commentary)


bayân-é ân-ke har Hiss-é
mudrikî-râ az âdamî nêz
degar-ast ke az mudrakât-é ân Hiss-é
degar bê-khabar-ast, chon-ân-ke har pêsha-
war-é ostâd, a`jamî-yé
kâr-é ân ostâd-é degar
pêsha-war-ast wa bê-khabarî-yé ô
az ân-ke waZîfa-yé ô nêst
dalîl na-kon-ad ke ân mudrakât nêst,
agar-che ba-Hukm-é Hâl-é munkir bow-ad

ân-râ ammâ az munkirî-
yé ô în-jâ joz bê-khabarî na-mê-
khwâh-êm dar-în maqâm

2384 chanbara-yé dîd-é jahân idrâk-é to-st

2384 chanbara-yé dîd-é jahân idrâk-é to-st
parda-yé pâk-ân His-é nâ-pâk-é to-st

2385 maddatê His-râ be-shô z-âb-é `ayân
în chon-în dân jâma-shôy-é Sûfiy-ân

chûn shod-î tô pâk, parda bar kan-ad
jân-é pâk-ân khwêsh bar tô mê-zan-ad

jumla-yé `âlam gar bow-ad nûr-o Suwar
chashm-râ bâsh-ad az ân khôbî khabar

chashm bast-î, gôsh mê-âr-î ba-pêsh
tâ nomây-î zolf-o rokhsâra-yé botê-sh

gôsh goy-ad man ba-Sûrat na-g'raw-am
Sûrat ar bângê zan-ad, man be-sh'naw-am

2390 âlim-am man, lêk andar fann-é khwêsh
fann-é man joz Harf-o Sawtê nêst bêsh

hîn be-yâ bînî, be-bîn în khôb-râ
nêst dar khwar bînî în maTlûb-râ

gar bow-ad moshk-o golâbî bô bar-am
fann-é man în-ast-o `ilm-o makhbar-am

kay be-bîn-am man rokh-é ân sîm-sâq?
hîn ma-kon taklîf-é mâ laysa yuTâq

bâz Hiss-é kazh na-bîn-ad ghayr-é kazh
khwâh kazh-gazh pêsh-é ô yâ râst-gazh

2395 chashm-é aHwal az yakî-dîdan yaqîn
dân ke ma`zûl-ast ay khwâja-yé mu`în

tô ke fir`awnê, hama makrî-wo zarq
mar ma-râ az khwad na-mê-dân-î tô farq

ma-n'gar az khwad dar man ay kazh-bâz, tô
tâ yakî tô-râ na-bîn-î tô dô-tô

be-n'gar andar man ze-man yak sâ`atê
tâ warây-é kawn bîn-î sâHatê

wâ-rah-î az tangî-wo az nang-o nâm
`ishq andar `ishq bîn-î wa `s-salâm

2400 pas be-dân-î chûn-ke rast-î az badan
gôsh-o bînî chashm mê-dân-ad shodan

râst goft-ast ân shah-é shîrîn-zabân
chashm gard-ad mô ba môy-é `ârif-ân

chashm-râ chashê na-bûd awwal yaqîn
dar raHim bûd ô janîn-é gôshtîn

`illat-é dîdan ma-dân pîh ay pesar
w-ar-na khwâb andar, na-dîdy kas Suwar

ân parî-wo déw mê-bîn-ad shabîh
nêst andar dîda-gâh-é har dô pîh

2405 nûr-râ bâ pîh khwad nisbat na-bûd
nisbat-ash bakhshêd khalâq-é wadûd

. . . . . . .

2415 gar na-bûdy nîl-râ ân nûr-o dîd
az che qibTê-râ ze-sibTê mê-gozîd?

gar na kûh-o sang bâ-dîdâr shod
pas che-râ dâwûd-râ ô yâr shod?

2417 în zamîn-râ gar na-bûdy chashm-é jân
az che qârûn-râ forô khward ân-chon-ân?

. . . . . . .

2423 în ferestâdan ma-râ pêsh-é tô mîr
hast burhânê ke bod mursil khabîr

k-în chon-în dârû chon-în nâsûr-râ
hast dar khwor az pay-é maysûr-râ

2425 wâqi`âtê dîda bûd-î pêsh az-în
ke khodâ khwâh-ad ma-râ kardan gozîn

man `aSâ-wo nûr be-g'refta ba-dast
shâkh-é gostâkh-é to-râ khwâh-am shekast

wâqi`ât-é sahm-gîn az bahr-é în
gûna gûna mê-namûd-at rabb-é dîn

dar khwar-é sirr-é bad-o Taghyân-é tô
tâ be-dân-î k-ô-st dar-khwar-dân-é tô

2429 tâ be-dân-î k-ô Hakîm-ast-o khabîr
muSliH-é amrâZ-é darmân-nâ-paZîr

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)