The Affliction of Free Will (part four)

Mathnawi VI: 234-248

234 (Humble) fur garments and sandals became Ayaz's prayer
niche,1 due to (his) submissive neediness in the path of
Love (of God).

235 Although he was, himself, the beloved of the king (and)
was elegant and attractive (both) outwardly and inwardly--

(Since) he had become free of any pride, hypocrisy, and
hatred (and since) his face had become a mirror for the
king's beauty--

The conclusion of his situation was praised2 (only)
because he became distant from his own self-existence;

For that reason, the firmness of Ayaz was stronger
because he would [successfully] control (his) desires due to
fear of arrogance.3

(For) he was refined and good. And he had come (and
fatally) struck the neck of pride and ego.4

240 He continued doing those artifices,5 either for the
teaching (others)6 or for the sake of some wisdom far
distant from fear.

Or (else) the sight of his (peasant's) sandals was
pleasing (to him), because existence (of self) is an iron
plate against the breeze of not existing.7

(And) so that the crypt8 (of self-annihilation), which
is (built) upon non-existence might be opened,9 so that he
might obtain that breeze of (spiritual) delight and life.

(For) the property, wealth, and silk (clothing) of the
halting-place (of this world) are a chain on the
light-traveling soul.

The soul saw the chain of gold and was deceived. (As a
result), it stayed in the hole of a well (distant) from the
(open) plain.10

245 (The world's) appearance (is like) Paradise, (but) with
the reality of (being) a Hell; it's image is a (beautiful)
rose-cheeked one, but (it is really) a large snake full of

Even though Hell-fire cannot give harm to the (true)
believer,11 yet it is better that he pass on from that place.

Even though Hell keeps (its) punishment far from him,
yet Paradise (is) better for him in any case.

248 O (you who are) lacking (discernment),12 (have) fear of
the (beautiful) rose-cheeked one who becomes (like) a Hell
at the time of companionship.13

--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" (,6/28/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (234) (Humble) fur garments and sandals became Ayaz's prayer
niche: refers to Rumi's story of Ayaz, the favorite slave of
King Mahmood, whom he elevated to a high position of power
within his court. To avoid pride and remain humble (before
the king, who symbolizes God in the story), Ayaz kept his
rough clothing which he would view every day in a private
(and locked) chamber (Mathnawi V:1856-2115).

2. (237) praised [maHmûd]: a play on the name of King
Mahmood. "In this passage, the intended meaning of 'Ayâz' is
those sanctified persons [awliyâ] who have reached the
degree of belovedness. Although any sweetheart may become
the beloved of the King of Reality; and he may be fine and
beautiful, outwardly and inwardly; yet (in the case of) a
saint who is without hypocrisy and hatred, the soul of his
face has become the mirror for the Beauty of the Sultan of
Truth. And the Sultan of Truth, with the signs of His
Attributes has (also) manifested in the mirror of his face.
Because that saint has become distant from self-existence
and has become the beloved of God. And the end of his
situation became entirely good and praiseworthy." (Anqaravi,
the famous 17th century commentator, translated here into
English from a Persian translation)

3. (238) due to fear of arrogance: Nicholson later
corrected his translation to, "The steadfastness of Ayáz was
too firm for him to take (those) precautions in fear of
arrogance" (from, "The steadfastness of Ayáz was all the
firmer forasmuch as he was taking (those) precautions in
fear of arrogance"). And he explained: "i.e. since he was a
Perfect Man, utterly selfless, it would be absurd to suppose
that he was afraid of egoism: his motive, as explained in
the verses immediately following, was something quite
different." (Commentary)

4. (239) he had come (and fatally) struck the neck of pride
and ego: means he had "killed" his ego [nafs]. This is one
metaphor for the complete submission of ego. Another is the
metaphor of refinement through stages of purification of the
"bodily soul." The Prophet Muhammad said that his nafs had
become his servant.

"Therefore, Ayaz was lofty in his present (spiritual)
rank. So for what (reason) did he perform these various
actions and needy devotions. The answer is given (in the
next verse)." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

5. (240) those artifices: means tricking his ego into
feeling humble, and doing this in such a way that it aroused
the suspicion of the other people in the king's court.

6. (240) for the teaching (others): "It means, Ayaz was
using these stratagems so that he might teach others not to
be captive to self-centeredness and arrogance." (Anqaravi,
Commentary) In the end, the other people in the king's court
were taught a lesson, because they falsely projected their
own bad qualities onto him by suspecting him of amassing
treasures in his locked compartment (which when unlocked,
contained only the humble garments he wore when he first
came to the palace).

7. (241) not existing: "I.e. pride is an obstacle to
self-abandonment." (Nicholson, Footnote)

8. (242) crypt [dakhma]: originally this term meant the
Zoroastrian "tower of silence," where corpses are left in
the open air to disintegrate (via the elements, vultures,
etc.). "Dakhmah is used (I 1928) in the sense of gúr-i tan [=
tomb of the body].... Dakhmah inevitably suggests decay and
corruption, and vv. 243-248 [= the next six lines] favour
the idea that dakhmah k-án bar nístí-st [= "which is (built)
upon non-existence"] is a poetical image of dunyá-yi fání [=
the transient material world]." (Nicholson, Commentary)

"(The meaning of) dakhma: Although it is said to (mean)
a house which is built upon a grave, yet it is also said to
(mean) a house which is built upon a buried treasure. In
this (latter) explanation is the intended meaning of buried
treasure. And the meaning of buried treasure is also true
existence [wujûd-é Haqqânî] and Divine secrets.... Ayaz was
going every day to see (his humble) fur jacket and sandals,
and he was longing for them, so that buried treasure might
be opened for him. (And) that buried treasure is
non-existence (of self)." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

9. (242) might be opened: "i.e. 'in order that the body in
which the soul is entombed might open', referring to the
mystical resurrection (I 2036, note)" [= "In the Qur'án the
'new creation' [= 50:15] refers to the resurrection of the
body at the Last Judgment, but here the words are used to
describe the creation of new life in the mystic's heart by
'rain from the Unseen' (bárán-i ghayb), i.e. by the
influence of Divine grace (fayd)."] (Nicholson, Commentary)

10. (244) a well (distant) from the (open) plain: Nicholson
translated, "a dungeon (far) from the open country."
"Therefore (the soul) became far from the spiritual world
and from traveling in the open plain of Truth. His soul
remained in the hole of a well." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

11. (246) Hell-fire cannot give harm to the (true) believer:
"Cf. the Traditions that on the Day of Resurrection hell
will say to the Faithful, 'Cross (the bridge Sirát), O true
believer, for thy light hath put out my flames'; and that
when the Faithful enter Paradise they will say to God,
'Didst not Thou promise us that we should come to Hell-fire
(on our way)?' whereupon God will answer, 'Yes; but it was
extinguished when ye passed by.'" (Nicholson, Commentary)

12. (248) O (you who are) lacking (discernment): Nicholson
translated, "O ye deficient (in understanding). "It means,
'O ones (who are) deficient of intelligence...'" (Anqaravi,

13. (248) at the time of companionship: Nicholson
translated, "at the time of intercourse." He meant "social
intercourse"-- or communication between individuals.

"Outwardly the world is (like) an attractive form and
sweetheart, and an ornament like a rose-cheeked beauty. But
its inward (quality) at the time of conversation [suHbat]
and companionship is ugly, glum, and demonic." (Anqaravi,

This line leads to Rumi's next story, about a Hindu slave who was
in love with a rich Muslim's daughter, and how he was tricked into
losing his love for her when he ended up with a very unpleasant
companion, instead of her, on his supposed wedding night.


234 pôstîn-o châroq âmad az neyâz
dar Tarîq-é `ishq miHrâb-é ayâz

235 gar-che ô khwad shâh-râ maHbûb bûd
Zâhir-o BâTin laTîf-o khwûb bûd

gashta bê-kibr-o riyâ-wo kîna'yê
Husn-é sulTân-râ rokh-ash âyîna'yê

chûn-ke az hastîy-é khwad ô dûr shod
muntahây-é kâr-é ô maHmûd bod

z-ân qawî-tar bûd tamkîn-é ayâz
ke ze-khawf-é kibr kardy iHtarâz

ô muhaZZab gashta bûd-o âmada
kibr-râ-wo nafs-râ gardan zada

240 yâ pay-é ta`lîm mê-kard ân Hiyal
yâ barây-é Hikmatê dûr az wajal

yâ ke dîd-é châroq-ash z-ân shod pasand
k-az nasîm-é nîstî, hastî-st band

tâ goshây-ad dakhma k-ân bar nêstî-st
tâ be-yâb-ad ân nasîm-é `aysh-o zîst

mulk-o mâl-o aTlas-é în marHala
hast bar jân-é sabok-raw silsila

silsila-yé zarrîn be-dîd-o gharra gasht
mând dar sôrâkh-é châhê jân ze-dasht

245 Sûrat-ash jannat, ba-ma`niy-é dôzakhê
af`àyê por zahr-o naqsh-ash gol-rokhê

gar-che mû'min-râ saqar na-d'had Zarar
lêk ham behtar bow-ad z-ân-jâ goZar

gar-che dôzakh dûr dâr-ad z-ô nakâl
lêk jannat beh wa-râ fî kulli Hâl

248 al-HaZar ay nâqiS-ân z-în gol-rokhê
ke ba gâh-é SuHbat âmad dôzakhê

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)