Pharaoh and His Wife's Advice (part two)

Mathnawi IV: 2626-2656

2626 (Pharaoh) said, "O veiled and pious one,1 I will speak
with Haman.2 The king requires the prime minister's advice."

(Asiya) replied, "Don't tell this secret to Haman! What
does a blind feeble old person know about a (royal hunting)

The story of the king's falcon and the feeble old woman

(If) you give a white falcon to a feeble old (woman),4
she will cut its claws for sake of (its) "betterment."5

The blind feeble woman6 will blindly cut the claws which
are the very basis of (its) work of hunting,

2630 Saying, "O prince! Where has your mother been, so that
your talons are long like this?"

She (then) cut its claws, beak, and wings. (And) the
foul old woman does this (during) a moment of affection.

When she gives it pasta,7 it won't eat (it). (So) she
gets angry (and) tears up (her) affections (toward it),

(Saying), "I cooked such (delicious) pasta for you,
(and) you are displaying pride and great insolence (in
refusing it)?

"You are suitable for that very suffering and affliction
[I found you in]. Comfort and good-fortune will never be
suitable for you.

2635 (Then) she gives it the pasta broth,8 saying, "Take
this, if you don't want to eat (any) of the paste."9

(But) the falcon's nature won't take the pasta broth
(either), (and so) the old woman frowns and her anger lasts

Out of anger, the woman pours the hot broth onto its
head (so that) the top of its head becomes bald.

Tears pour down from its eyes from the burning (heat),
(and) it remembers the kindness of the heart-illuminating
king [it flew away from].1

(Tears continue to pour down) from those two delightful
eyes [usually] possessed of amorous playfulness (and) which
have a thousand perfections from (that) royal face.

2640 Its eyes which "did not swerve"12 became full of wounds
(caused) by the crow;13 (its) good eyes (became filled) with
pain and searing injuries14 from (the (glance of) the evil

(Its) eyes (have vision) of (such) oceanic wideness that
both this world and the next appear (to it as) a (mere)
thread of hair in comparison to its immensity.

Even if a thousand revolving heavens went into its eyes
they would wander in confusion, like a (mere) fountain in
the presence of the sea.

(In regard to) the eyes (which) have passed beyond (the
limits of) the (physical) senses16 (and) have obtained
"kisses" from seeing the Unperceived (Realm),17

I can't find a single ear that I may tell a subtle
remark about those beautiful eyes.

2645 (If) the water (reflecting) the glorious
praiseworthiness (of those eyes) should drip (down),18 (the
archangel) Gabriel would seize a drop of it,

So that he could rub (it) onto his "feathers and beak"--
if that [saintly] person prone to practicing goodness19 gives
his permission.

The falcon says, "Even if the anger of (that) feeble old
(woman) has been inflamed, (still) it has not burned up my
dignity, radiant glow, knowledge, and patience.

"The falcon of my spirit will (continue to) weave anew a
hundred forms.20 The blow strikes upon the camel, not on (the
Prophet) Salih.21

(The Prophet) Salih, From a single majestic breath which
Salih brings forth, the back (side) of the mountain22 will
give birth to a hundred such camels.23

2650 (My) heart is saying,24 "(Be) silent and maintain
caution,25 or else the (Divine) jealousy will tear up the
vertical and horizontal threads (of existence)."

(Yet) His jealousy has hundreds of hidden mildnesses, or
else it would burn up hundreds of worlds at once.

Kingly arrogance conquered (within) Pharaoh (any) room
for advice, so that he uprooted his heart from attachment to
(his wife's) counsel,

(Saying), "I will consult with the opinion of [my prime
minister] Haman,26 since he is the support of (my) kingdom and
the axis of (royal) power."

The Chosen (Prophet Muhammad) had the Lord's faithful
witness, (Abu Bakr)27 for a counselor, (but) Abu Jahl had Abu
Lahab for a counselor.28

2655 The root of (his) general nature29 drew him in such a
(strong) way that the advice (of his wife) became unpleasant
to him.

2656 (For similar) kind flies with a hundred wings toward
(similar) kind (and) tears off (any) fetters for its
fantasied (object of desire).30

--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" (,7/19/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (2626) veiled and pious one [satîr]: means piously
covered, concealed. Nicholson translated, "O veiled (modest)
one." The term also means one who hides another's faults.

2. (2626) Haman: Pharaoh's "wazîr," or prime minister and
main counselor on matters of State.

3. (2627) What does a blind feeble old person know about a
(royal hunting) falcon: Pharaoh's wife had been urging him
to follow her advice and accept the blessings promised by
Moses for submitting to the One God. Then she said: "Hurry,
since an amazing falcon has fallen (as a gift) to you; no
seeker will find (one such as) this in (his) search." (line

"It means: Haman is symbolized by a feeble old blind
person, and the secret is related to (true) faith and
worship, which is like a lofty flying falcon." (Anqaravi,
the famous 17th century Turkish commentator, translated here
into English from a Persian translation)

4. (2628) (If) you give a white falcon to a feeble old
(woman): "This apologue on the folly of imparting mystical
truth to the vulgar [= common ignorant people] begins with a
passage that corresponds almost exactly to the opening
verses of the Story of the King who found his falcon in the
house of a decrepit old woman" [= II: 323-349]." (Nicholson,

5. (2628) she will cut its claws for sake of (its) "betterment": "And
she believes that this action of hers is good, because she supposes
that by cutting the falcon's claws she has done a (good) service and
favor to it." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

6. (2629) The blind feeble woman: "The intended meaning of
the blind old woman in this explanation: the base ego [nafs]
and craving desire, as well as the followers of the base ego
and the people of craving desire. And the meaning of the
falcon: (true) faith, as well as those people who are worthy
of submission [islâm] (to God)." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

7. (2632) pasta [totmâj]: Nicholson's translation has a
transliteration of the Persian word, "tutmáj," with a
footnote defining it as "A stew made of meat and pastry."
(Footnote) However, another dictionary defines it as "thin
slices of pasta, vermicelli." The latter makes more sense,
that it would be food that is the opposite of meat.
Nicholson explained the symbolism: "Here tutmáj signifies
intellectual speculation and exoteric knowledge."

8. (2635) (Then) she gives it the pasta broth: "i.e.
according to Fa [= Anqaravi, the commentator], 'the carnal
man regales the mystic with maxims of worldly wisdom'."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

9. (2635) the paste [faTîr]: "Said to mean unleavened
bread, which is the intended meaning of the pasta of
totmâj." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

10. (2636) her anger lasts longer: "Any time a (spiritual)
lover who has the disposition of a (noble) falcon does not
take the advice and counsel-- which resemble pasta broth--
of worldly people and does not accept their words, they will
become angry, annoyed and enraged." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

11. (2638) (and) it remembers the kindness of the
heart-illuminating king [it flew away from]: "The intended
meaning of 'falcon' in this passage is the human spirit, or
the Prophets-- peace be upon them, or the noble saints.
Either (interpretation) is permissible. The intended meaning
of 'king' is God Most High. And the intended meaning of
'feeble old person' is the '(ugly) old woman' of the World.
It is also allowable if (the meaning of) the people [bound
to the materialistic values] of the World is also assumed.
Hazrat-i Mawlana [= Rumi]-- may God sanctify his lofty
secret, has made the feeble old person a metaphor for Haman
[= Pharaoh's chief political adviser], and the falcon a
metaphor for Hazrat-i Músá [= Moses]-- peace be upon him and
his secret." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

12. (2640) Its eyes which "did not swerve": refers to the
account of Prophet Muhammad's miraculous ascension [mi`râj]
to Heaven (during his lifetime): "(His) eyes did not swerve
[mâ zâgha 'l-baSar] nor stray. For certainly he saw one of
the greatest signs of his Lord." (Qur'an 53: 17-18).

13. (2640) the crow: symbolic of a base, evil person who
lead others astray-- as well as bad fortune. The crow (as
well as the owl) are the opposite of the king's falcon,
which symbolizes noble character and good fortune. There is
a pun between the Persian word "crow" [zâgh] and the
Qur'anic Arabic word "swerve" [zâgha].

14. (2640) searing injuries: means that the falcon's eyes
are hurt by the glance of the "evil eye" as if wounded by a
hot branding iron.

15. (2640) the evil eye: contrasts with the "good eyes" of
the noble [= saintly] falcon. Refers to the ancient folk
belief that a person can become subject to illness and harm
from the magic of an evil gaze. It also refers, in the
Qur'an, to the eyes of the envious unbelievers, who would
"almost trip you up with their (evil) eyes" (68:51) and to
the "evil of the envious who practices envy" (113:5).

16. (2643) (In regard to) the eyes (which) have passed
beyond (the limits of) the (physical) senses: Nicholson
referred here to Mathnawi I :1406 (which he translated, "Man
is eye, and (all) the rest is (worthless) skin: the sight of
that (eye) is (consists in) seeing the Beloved." And 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' [= Mathnawi II:
18]." (Nicholson, Commentary)

17. (2643) have obtained "kisses" from seeing the
Unperceived (Realm): Nicholson translated, "and won kisses
from vision of the Unseen..." "The first (allowable) meaning
is as a metaphor of delight and enjoyment.... The second
meaning is being kissed. In other words.... it sees the
world of spiritual meaning by means of seeing the
Unperceived (spiritual) realm (and) it obtains kisses from
the holy spirits and pure souls." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

18. (2645) (If) the water (reflecting) the glorious
praiseworthiness (of those eyes) should drip (down):
Nicholson translated, " (If) the lauded and august water
were to trickle (from that eye)." And he explained: "i.e.
the `ilm-i ladunní [= knowledge from the Divine Presence, a
reference to Qur'an 18:65] of the Perfect Man [= the
perfected saint who reflects the Attributes of God, a term
in the sufi philosophy of Ibnu 'l-`Arabi, died 1240]. It has
been said that 'the tears of God's lovers are dearer to Him
than the praise of the Cherubim'." (Nicholson, Commentary)
Anqaravi quotes this saying in Arabic: "The sighs of those
who are loved (by God) and the weeping of those who pray for
forgiveness [al-mustaghfarîn] are more loved by God than the
praise of the closest angels." (Commentary)

19. (2646) that [saintly] person prone to practicing
goodness: "I.e. the Perfect Man (prophet or saint) who is
the owner of the illumined eye." (Nicholson, Footnote)

20. (2648) The falcon of my spirit will (continue to) weave
anew a hundred forms: "i.e. no earthly afflictions can touch
the spirit of the saint or prevent it from displaying Divine
attributes." (Nicholson, Commentary)

21. (2648) (the Prophet) Salih: in the Qur'an, the Prophet
Salih ordered the people of Thamud to allow a certain camel
to be watered (as a test of the rights of the poor to water
their animals) and not to harm it. But they harmed it and
suffered Divine punishment (26:155-58; 7:73).
Nicholson also referred to a related passage (Mathnawi
I: 2509-2557), which he translated: "His (the prophet's or
saint's) spirit is like Sálih, and his body is the
she-camel: the spirit is in union (with God), the body in
want (distress). The Sálih-spirit is not susceptible to
afflictions: the blows fall on the camel (body), not on the
essence (spirit)." (I: 2515-16)

22. (2649) the back (side) of the mountain: Nicholson
translated, "the back (womb) of the mountain."

23. (2649) will give birth to a hundred such camels: "If the
saint's body is hurt, God restores the loss a hundredfold."
(Nicholson, Commentary) Nicholson referred to Mathnawi III:
1705-45 for more on this particular theme. "It means, 'Those
camels which had arrived from the inside of the mountain [=
were conceived], due to the (sighing) prayer of Hazrat-i
Salih-- peace be upon him, would be found to have been
born." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

24. (2650) (My) heart is saying, "(Be) silent and maintain
caution: Rumi is speaking to himself here. "Rúmí means that
he is forbidden to reveal the mystery of the Perfect Man's
'union' with God." [= see note on line 2645, above]
(Nicholson, Commentary) Nicholson referred to Mathnawi I:
1733 and IV: 2767 on this theme.

25. (2650) the (Divine) jealousy will tear up the vertical
and horizontal threads (of existence): Nicholson translated,
"otherwise, the (Divine) jealousy will end the warp and woof
(of thy existence)."

"(It means), 'Be silent about the unveiling of (Divine)
mysteries. If you are not silent, the Divine jealousy will
tear up the warp and woof of the entire veil [protecting
this world from the Divine Light]. And it will tear the
covering and rip away any veil which covers the face of
(Divine) Reality. At that moment it will be necessary for
the secret of every person to become apparent and this is
not allowed [= prior to the Day of Judgment].'.... It is
possible for the second half of the verse to mean: 'The
Divine Jealousy will tear up and erase your existence and
body,' but the first interpretation is better." (Anqaravi,

26. (2653): I will consult with the opinion of [my prime
minister] Haman: Rumi continues the story, describing how
Haman appealed to Pharaoh's arrogance and convinced him
that the words of Moses, a mere slave, were impudent and
insulting to a great king as he, etc.

27. (2654) the Lord's faithful witness [Siddîq], (Abu Bakr):
Abu Bakr was the Prophet's closest companion and first
successor. He was known as Abu Bakr Siddíq, "Abu Bakr the
sincere, or faithful witness."

28. (2654) Abu Jahl had Abu Lahab for a counselor: two
notorious enemies of the Prophet. They were leaders of the
pagan polytheists who worked to destroy the new monotheist

29. (2655) The root of (his) general nature: Nicholson
translated, "The homogeneity rooted in his nature." And he
explained: "Literally, 'the root (innate disposition) of
homogeneity.'" (Footnote)

30. (2656) for its fantasied (object of desire): Nicholson
translated: "Congener flies to congener with a hundred wings
and rives (all) bounds asunder in the fancy (desire) for him
(who is the congenial)." The attraction of similar kinds for
each other is a frequent metaphor in Rumi's teaching.
Anqaravi quotes the Arabic saying: "Similar kind is
inclined toward similar kind" [al-jinsu ilà 'l-jinsi
yamayl]. (Commentary)


2626 goft bâ hâmân be-gôy-am ay satîr
shâh-râ lâzim bow-ad râ'y-é wazîr

goft bâ hâmân ma-gô în râz-râ
kôr-é kam-pîrê che dân-ad bâz-râ?

qiSSa-yé bâz-é pâdshâh wa kam-pîr-zan

bâz-é espêdê ba-kam-pîrê deh-î
ô be-borr-ad nâkhon-ash bahr-é behî

nâkhon-é ke aSl-é kâr-ast-o shekâr
kôr-kam-pîrê be-borr-ad kôr-wâr

2630 ke ko-jâ bûd-ast mâdar ke to-râ
nâkhon-ân z-în sân darâz-ast ay keyâ?

nâkhon-o minqâr-o parr-ash-râ borîd
waqt-é mehr în mê-kon-ad zâl-é palîd

chûn-ke totmâj-ash deh-ad ô kam khwar-ad
khashm gîr-ad, mehr-hâ-râ bar dar-ad

ke chon-în totmâj pokht-am bahr-é tô
tô takabbur mê-nomây-î-wo `utuw?

tô sazây-î dar ham-ân ranj-o balâ
ni`mat-o iqbâl kay sâz-ad to-râ?

2635 âb-é totmâj-ash deh-ad k-în-râ be-gîr
gar na-mê-khwâh-î ke nôsh-î z-ân faTîr

âb-é totmâj-ash na-gîr-ad Tab`-é bâz
zâl be-t'ranj-ad, shaw-ad khashm-ash darâz

az ghaZb shorbây-é sôzân bar sar-ash
zan forô rêz-ad, shaw-ad kal mighfar-ash

ashk az ân chashm-ash ferô rêz-ad ze-sôz
yâd âr-ad luTf-é shâh-é del-forôz

z-ân dô chashm-é nâzanîn-é bâ-dalâl
ke ze-chehra-yé shâh dâr-ad Sad kamâl

2640 chashm-é mâ zâgha-sh shoda por zakhm-é zâgh
chashm-é nêk az chashm-é bad bâ-dard-o dâgh

chashm-é daryâ-basTatî k-az basT-é ô
har dô `âlam mê-nomây-ad târ-é mô

gar hazâr-ân charkh dar chashm-ash raw-ad
ham-chô chashma pêsh-é qulzum gom shaw-ad

chashm-é be-g'Zashta az-în maHsûs-hâ
yafta az ghayb-bînî bôsa-hâ

khwad na-mê-yâb-am yakê gôshê ke man
nukta'yê gôy-am az ân chashm-é Hasan

2645 mê-chekîd ân âb-é maHmûd-é jalîl
mê-robôdy qaTra-ash-râ jibra'îl

tâ be-mâl-ad dar par-o manqâr-é khwêsh
gar deh-ad dastûriy-ash ân khwob-kêsh

bâz gôy-ad khashm-é kam-pîr ar forôkht
farr-o nûr-o `ilm-o Sabr-am-râ na-sôkht

bâz-é jân-am bâz Sad Sûrat tan-ad
zakhm bar nâqa, na bar Sâlih zan-ad

SâliH az yak-dam ke âr-ad bâ shokôh
Sad chon-ân nâqa be-zây-ad matn-é kôh

2650 del hamê-gôy-ad khamôsh-o hôsh-dâr
w-ar-na derrânîd ghayrat pûd-o târ

ghayrat-ash-râ hast Sad Hilm-é nehân
w-ar-na sôzîdy ba-yak dam Sad jahân

nakhwat-é shâhî gereft-ash jây-é pand
tâ del-é khwad-râ ze-band-é pand kan-ad

ke kon-am bâ rây-é hâmân mashwarat
k-ô-st posht-é mulk-o quTb-é maqdurat

muSTafà-râ rây-zan Siddîq-é rab
rây-zan bû jahl-râ shod bû lahab

2655 `irq-é jinsiyyat chon-ân-ash jaZb kard
k-ân naSîHat-hâ ba-pêsh-ash gasht sard

2656 jins sôy-é jins Sad parra par-ad
bar kheyâl-ash band-hâ-râ bar der-ad

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)