The High Station of Man (part three)

Mathnawi VI: 163-182

163 (This is) the meaning of (the verse), "We will set a
seal on their mouths."1 (And) this understanding is
important for the wayfarer (on the spiritual path),

So that by (following) the path of the Seal of the
Prophets,2 the heavy restraints might perhaps be raised from
his lips.3

165 Any seals which the prophets (of the past) left have
been taken off by the religion of Muhammad.4

The locks (which) had remained unopened were opened up
by the hand of (the verse), "Truly We have opened (for

(Muhammad) is the intercessor for this world and the
next world6-- (in) this world for7 religion, and there for
the Gardens (of Paradise).8

(In) this world,9 he says (the prayer), "May You show
them the way!" And in that world he says, "May you show them
the moon!"10

It was his custom in (public) appearance and in secret
(to pray), "Guide my people, for they do not know (the

170 The gates of both (this world and the next) are opened
by means of his (interceding) words.12 (And) his prayer is
answered in both worlds.

(It is) for this reason (that) he has been the Seal (of
the Prophets): that, in regard to great generosity, there
are no (people) like him-- and there never will be.

When a master excels in an art or craft, do you not say,
"The art is sealed on account of you"?13

(O Muhammad), in the opening of seals, you are the
Seal.14 (And) in the world of givers of the spirit,15 you are
a Hatim (of generosity).16

The intended meaning17 (here) is (that) the indications
(given by) Muhammad (are) entirely a wide opening [of Divine
wisdom] within an opening within an opening.18

175 (May) a hundred thousand praises (be) upon his soul
(and) on the arrival and cycle of his sons!19

Those good-fortuned sons of his successors20 are born
from the original root of his soul and heart.

Whether they are from Baghdad, Herat, or Rayy,21 they are
his descendents without [need of] mixture of water and

Wherever the (grafted) rose branch grows, it is the same
rose (bush);23 wherever the jar of wine ferments, it is
(from) the same (batch of) wine.

Even if the sun raises (its) head from the West,24 it is
the (same) identical sun, not something else.

180 O (our) Creator, keep the collectors of (people's)
faults blind to these (profound) words25 with Your Veiling!26

God said (in response to my prayer),27 "I have bound the
eyes of the bat of evil qualities from (being able to see)
the incomparable sun.

182 "(And) the stars of that sun are also hidden from the
covered and damaged eyes of the bat."28

--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 1934 British translation)
Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (,5/31/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (163) "We will set a seal on their mouths": "Qur. XXXVI
65, where these words refer to infidels unable to deny their
guilt on the Day of Judgement. Rúmí, however, is thinking of
hearts that are closed against reception of the Truth in the
present life." (Nicholson, Commentary)

2. (164) Seal of the Prophets: the Prophet Muhammad was
called by God the Seal of the Prophets [khâtamu 'n-nabiyîn]
in the Qur'an (33:40). This means that he was the last of
the series of Prophets (such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and
Jesus) prior to the Day of Judgment.

3. (164) the heavy restraints might perhaps be raised from
his lips: "(It means), 'Perhaps the heavy locks may be
lifted from their mouths, the lips of their souls may become
opened, they may eat the morsels of (spiritual) knowledge
and (mystical) understanding [`irfân], and they may fill
themselves with the foods of (spiritual) faith and
certainty.'" (Anqaravi, the famous 17th Century Turkish
commentator, translated here into English from a Persian

4. (165) the religion of Muhammad [dîn-é aHmadî]:
literally, the "Ahmadi religion." The name "Ahmad" is a
contraction of "Muhammad" and always refers to the Prophet
Muhammad. The terms "Muhammadan faith" and
"Muhammadans" (which parallel "Christianity" and "Christians")
were originated by Western authors and are offensive to Muslims
(because it implies worship of Muhammad). They use the
Qur'anic terms "Islam" ("submission to God") for the
religion and "Muslims" (surrenderers to the Will of God")
for themselves (and not "Moslems," a spelling that tends to
be pronounced by Westerners as "Mozlems"-- which is too
close to the Arabic word "muZlim" which means "dark,"
"disastrous"). Also, Islam was never understood by Muslims
to be a new religion, "founded" or started by Muhammad-- but
rather (as the Qur'an states) as a clarification of the
essentials of the same Revelation given to the prophets of
the past (such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus).

5. (166) "Truly We have opened (for you)": Qur'an 48:1,
"Truly we have opened for you (O Muhammad) a clear victory."
The historical significance of this verse is that it
referred to the important Treaty of Hudaybiya, in which the
polytheistic Arab tribes gave formal recognition to the
Muslims as viable power. It opened the way to the conquest
of Mecca two years later, to the spread of Islam throughout
Arabia soon afterwards, and to the rest of the world.
"And the spiritual 'opening' (is) the unveiling of
(branches of spiritual) knowledge, mystical understanding
[`irfân] and hidden secrets, and is like the 'opening' of
the spiritual world." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

6. (167) (Muhammad) is the intercessor for this world and
the next world: refers to the belief of Muslims that the
Prophet may intercede on their behalf with God (and with His
permission). For example, as in the verse, "The Prophet...
is a mercy to those among you who believe" (Qur'an 9:61).
And the Prophet often made the intercessionary prayer, "O
God guide my people, for truly they do not know (the right
way)" [allâhumma ihdi qawm-î fa-inna-hum lâ ya`lamûn]. The
belief that the Prophet will intercede for Muslims on the
Day of Judgment is general, but the belief that he may
intercede for believers in this world by their resorting to
his spirit as a means [tawassul] is nowadays considered
controversial. There are verses in the Qur'an which refer to
intercession [shifâ`at] and "means of nearness" [tawassul)
to God. For example, "O you who believe! Be conscious of God
and seek a means of nearness to Him..." (Qur'an 5:38). "No
one will possess (the power of) intercession (on the Last
Day) except the one who has made a covenant with the Most
Merciful" (Qur'an 19:87).

7. (167) for [zî]: Anqaravi explained that this word is a
contraction of "zây" and "has the meaning of 'toward'
[jânib]." (Commentary)

8. (167) (in) this world for religion and there for the
Gardens (of Paradise): Nicholson translated, "in this world
(for guidance) to the (true) religion, and yonder (for
entrance) to Paradise."

9. (168) (In) this world: "For ín jahân = dar ín jahân [=
"this world" equals "in this world"], cf. III 3468."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

10. (168) in that world he says, "May you show them the
moon: "And in that world he says, 'O God, reveal to this
people (of mine) the (full) moon of Your Beauty, so that
they may see Your Beauty, which is like a shining moon, and
so that they may contemplate You (directly).'" (Anqaravi,

11. (169) Guide my people, for they do not know (the way):
see note on line 167.

12. (170) by means of his (interceding) words: Nicholson
translated more literally, "By his breath (powerful
intercession)..." "It means, 'By the problem-solving breath
[or words] of that chief of the prophets, the doors of
(true) religion [dîn] and virtue [diyânat] in this world,
and the doors of (Divine) mercy and forgiveness and Paradise
in the next world may be opened.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

13. (172) The art is sealed on account of you: "I.e. ' has
been brought by thee to the highest possible perfection."
(Nicholson, Footnote) "It means by the analogy: if a master,
perfect in (his) craft has gained superiority and precedence
over all other masters..."

14. (173) you are the Seal: means the foremost of the
Prophets (as well as the last Prophet) sent by God. See note
on line 164.

15. (173) in the world of givers of the spirit: Nicholson
translated, "the givers of spiritual life." And he
explained: "The prophets and saints." (Footnote)

16. (173) a Hatim (of generosity): "i.e. the most bounteous.
The generosity of Hátim of Tayy is proverbial." (Nicholson,
Footnote) "In this passage... it has the meaning of (great)
generosity and beneficence." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

17. (174) The intended meaning: [al-murâd]: "= al-hasil, 'to
sum up'. Cf. I 659, II 3690." (Nicholson, Commentary)

18. (174) a wide opening [of Divine wisdom] within an
opening within an opening: Nicholson translated, "revelation
within revelation within revelation." The term here
[goshâd], literally means opening, wide, spacious;
happiness; victory. But here it corresponds to an Arabic
phrase, the "opening of the breast" which is interpreted to
mean being illuminated with the vastness of wisdom (as in
Qur'an 94:1; 6:126).

19. (175) and cycle of his sons: "(It means), 'And on the
times (and generations) of his revered and excellent sons.'"
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

20. (176) Those good-fortuned sons of his successors:
Nicholson translated, "those fortunate Caliph-born sons of
his." The word he translated as "Caliph" [khalîfa] literally
means "successor." Generally it is used to refer to the
primary ruler of the Islamic world, but here it has a more
spiritual meaning: "These verses refer to the Moslem saints,
the Faithful par excellence, who are spiritual children of
the Prophet, according to the Hadíth ana min Núri 'lláhi
wa-'l-mu'minnúna minní." [= I am from the Light of God, and
the true believers are from me]." (Nicholson, Commentary)

"The intended meaning of 'Caliph-born sons' is the
'sons' of the most noble Messenger-- may the blessings and
peace of God be upon him, such as the sons of Abu Bakr and
the sons of his sons; the sons of `Umar and the sons of his
sons; the sons of `Uthmân and the sons of his sons; and the
sons of `Alî from Fâtima [= the Prophet's daughter] and the
rest of his sons..." (Anqaravi, Commentary) The above are
called the "Rightly Guided Caliphs" in Sunni Islam, who were
the first five successors of the Prophet. Anqaravi also
quoted a saying of the Prophet (transmitted by the early
sufi master, Hasan al-Basra): "'The mercy of God is upon my
successors.' They said, 'From among your successors, O
Prophet?' He said, peace be upon him, 'Those who love my way
of conduct [sunnat] and know the servants of God.'"

"Therefore, in consequence of this noble saying, any saint
is his [= the Prophet's] successor, and any learned scholar
also who revives the Prophet's way of conduct... In the same
way, the noble saying, 'Salman [= Salmân the Persian, a
close companion of the Prophet] is from us, the people of
(my) family [ahlu 'l-bayt]' attests to the same meaning."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

21. (177) Baghdad, Herat, or Rayy: various ancient and
prominent cities in the Islamic world. Baghdad is in
present-day Iraq, Herat is in western Afghanistan, and Rayy
is just south of Tehran in Iran.

22. (177) they are his descendents without [need of] mixture
of water and clay: "water and clay" is an idiom meaning the
human body. The meaning here is without the need of being
physically descended from the Prophet.

23. (178) Wherever the (grafted) rose branch grows, it is
the same rose (bush): Nicholson translated, "Wherever the
rose-bough blossoms, 'tis still the (same) wine." And he
explained, regarding this line and the next, "Metaphors
illustrating the essential unity of prophets and awliyá [=
saints] with the Núr-i Muhammadí [= Muhammadan Light], which
first manifested itself in Adam. See II 909, note." [= "i.e.
the Spiritual Light of Mohammad = Universal Reason (the
Logos), the first thing to be created. This is the Light by
which all prophets, beginning with Adam, and all the Moslem
saints are inspired."] (Nicholson, Commentary)

"It means, 'The rose branch of spiritual reality [ma`nà]
from the pure tree of the spirit of that holy (Prophet)--
peace be upon him, in any era when it manifests, in any
place where it grows, it is the same rose, and its scent is
the same scent of that rose of spiritual reality.'"
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

24. (179) Even if the sun raises (its) head from the West:
this also refers to a prophecy of the Prophet Muhammad, that
one of the signs preceding the coming of the Day of Judgment
will be the rising of the sun in the West.

25. (180) with Your Veiling: Nicholson translated, "Thy
veiling grace." The word for "veiling" [sattârîy] is based
on one of the attributes of God, the One Who Veils

26. (180) these (profound) words: Nicholson translated,
"this (mystic) utterance." Anqaravi said that the term
translated as "words" [dam], "in this place has the meaning
of speech [kalâm]." (Commentary)

27. (181) God said (in response) to my prayer: Nicholson
translated,"God said (in answer to my prayer)..." "It means,
'When I prayed to the Presence of God: "O Creator, cover
the eyes of the fault-collectors with Your (power of) veiling
and make them blind," God Most High accepted my prayer
and said: "The eyes of the bat..."'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

28. (182) the covered and damaged eyes of the bat: Nicholson
translated, "the glances of the infirm and feeble bat."
Although it is now known that the eyes of bats do have some
ability to see, it is proverbial, also in English, that
someone is "blind as a bat." Likewise, they have also been
associated in European culture with darkness and evil. Here,
they symbolize ignorant wrong-doers who are incapable of
seeing pious and saintly persons and of understanding their
spiritual wisdom.


163 ma`niy-é nakhtim `alà afwâhi-him
în shenâs, în-ast rah-raw-râ muhim

tâ ze-râh-é khâtim-é payghâmbar-ân
bûk bar khêz-ad ze-lab khatm-é gerân

165 khatm-hâyê k-ânbiyâ be-g'Zâsht-and
ân ba-dîn-é aHmadî bar dâsht-and

qufl-hây-é nâ-goshâda mânda bûd
az kaf-é innâ fataH-nâ bar goshûd

ô shafî`-ast în jahân-o ân jahân
în jahân zî dîn-o ân-jâ zî jinân

în jahân gôy-ad ke tô rah-shân nomâ
w-ân jahân gôy-ad ke tô mah-shân nomâ

pêsha-ash andar Zuhûr-o dar kumûn
iHdi qawm-î inna-hum lâ ya`lamûn

170 bâz gashta az dam-é ô har dô bâb
dar dô `âlam da`wat-é ô mustajâb

bahr-é în khâtim shod-ast ô ke ba-jûd
miSl-é ô na b'w-ad-o na khwâh-and bûd

chûn-ke dar San`at bar-ad ostâd dast
na tô gôy-î khatm-é San`at bar tow-ast?

dar goshâd-é khatm-hâ tô khâtim-î
dar jahân-é rûH-bakhsh-ân Hâtim-î

hast ishârât-é muHammad, al-murâd
kul goshâd andar goshâd andar goshâd

175 Sad hazâr-ân âfarîn bar jân-é ô
bar qudûm-o dawr?é farzand-ân-é ô

ân khalîfa-zâda-gân-é muqbil-ash
zâda-and az `unSar-é jân-o del-ash

gar ze-baghdâd-o harî yâ az ray-and
bê-mizâj-é âb-o gel, nasl-é way-and

shâkh-é gol har-jâ ke rôy-ad, ham gol-ast
khomm-é mul har-jâ ke jôsh-ad, ham mul-ast

gar ze-maghrib bar-zan-ad khworshêd sar
`ayn-é khworshêd-ast na chêz-e degar

180 `ayb-chîn-ân-râ az-în dam kûr dâr
ham ba-sattârîy-é khwad ay kardgâr

goft Haq chashm-é khufâsh-é bad-khiSâl
basta-am man z-âftâb-é bê-miSâl

182 az naZar-hây-é khufâsh-é kamm-o kâst
anjum-é ân shams nêz andar khafâ-st

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)