The Shop of the Mathnawi

Mathnawi VI: 1522-1528

1522 So sever the head of (your) selfness,1 O sword of Ali.2
Become self-less-- a dervish-like annihilated one.3

(And) when you become self-less, everything you do (will be an
example of the verse) You did not throw when you threw4 (and)
you will be secure [from self-will].

The responsibility is (then) with God, not with the appointed
trustee.5 The details of it are in plain view in (the books of)
religious law.6

1525 Certainly, every shop (has) a different merchandise. O son,
the Mathnawi is the shop for (spiritual) poverty.7

There is good leather in the shoemakers shop. If you see wood
(there), its (just) the mold for (making) shoes.

Raw silk and dark-colored (fabric) are (to be found) in the
presence of cloth sellers. If iron is (there), its for the sake of
measuring (cloth).

1528 Our Mathnawi is the shop of Unity. Anything you see
(therein) other than the Oneness (of God), (know that) it is an

--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" (,10/5/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (1522) sever the head of (your) selfness: see Rumi's verse in his
Divan (as translated by Arberry, "Mystical Poems of Rumi," No.
168, p. 140): "You are drunk, drunk and happy, I am drunk and
happy, without a head [bê-sar]; you are a lover with laughing lips, I
am laughing without any mouth." (Ghazal 1372)

2. (1522) O sword of Ali: literally, O Zû l-faqâr-- the name of the
sword of Ali, the cousin, son-in-law, and fourth successor (Caliph)
of the Prophet Muhammad. Nicholson explained that this sword
means qáti`-i sar-i nafs [= the cutter of the head of self-ness, or
ego]. (Commentary) Nicholson also referred to Mathnawi I:
132-133, which he translated: ... Time is a cutting sword. The Súfí
is the son of the (present) time, O comrade: it is not the rule of the
Way to say To-morrow. And he explained: Waqt [= Time] is used
here in one of its technical senses, viz. the moment of immediate
experience of being under Divine control (tasríf), and this moment
is compared to a sharp sword because it cuts the root of the future
and the past and obliterates care of yesterday and to-morrow from
the heart (Kashf, Eng. 362). [= Hujwiris Kashf al-Mahjûb,
translated by Nicholson, p. 362] (Commentary)

3. (1522) a dervish-like annihilated one: Nicholson translated,
become a selfless naughted one like the dervish. It means: In the
same way that the dervish is without self and without (personal)
existence, you should also become without existence, annihilated
[fânî], and without self. And you should deny and remove the
demanding (quality) of your ego [nafs] from yourself. (Anqaravi,
Commentary-- translated here from the Persian trans. of the 17th
century Turkish commentary)

4. (1523) You did not throw when you threw: quoted from the Qur'an
(8:17), slightly modified for versification. Nicholson explained: At
the battle of Badr the Prophet threw a handful of gravel in the faces
of the Quraysh [polytheists], who immediately fled before the
Moslem onset. The Qurán declares that the gravel was really
thrown by God, that He might give the true believers a good proof
of His favour. He added that in the Mathnawi this image is
sometimes applied generally as an illustration of the doctrine that
God is the source of all action in the universe, while in other
passages it refers to the mystical union of the prophet or saint
whose hand is the Hand of God. (Commentary) If you become
without self and you annihilate the demanding (quality) of the ego
and you make every action in agreement with the command of
God, you will be secure in bringing about (the condition of) you
did not throw when you threw.... It means, if you become
annihilated and without (self-) existence, every action which you
do, the doer of that action will be, in reality, the Lord God. And
your existence will become the instrument of the Lord God. You
will become the manifestation of the understanding of the verse,
And you did not throw when you threw, but it was God who threw.
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

5. (1524) not with the appointed trustee: The selfless mystic is amínu
lláh [= safe in God]: all claims against him are paid from the
Divine Treasury. (Nicholson, Commentary) Because the appointed
trustee is Gods instrument and the deputy of the Divine. In reality,
whatever (action) occurs on the part of the appointed trustee has
been manifested by the Lord God." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

6. (1524) religious law [fiqh]: means that the details are explained in
Islamic jurisprudence about why the believer who faithfully carries
out the commands of God (as set forth in the Qur'an and sayings
and doings of the Prophet) is secure from blame for his actions.

7. (1525) (spiritual) poverty [faqr]: an important term in sufism,
related to the word for a sufi poor one [faqîr-- translated into
Persian as darvîsh]. It refers to an absence of ostentation, pride,
self-worship, and self-centered preoccupation. What is with you
will vanish and what is with God will endure [bâq] (Qur'an 16:97).
O man, you are poor [fuqarâ] in relation to God, and God is the
Rich, the Praiseworthy (Qur'an 35:15). Since the preceding verses
have touched on questions of law (fiqh), it is natural for the poet to
remind his hearers that the essence of the Mathnawí is pure
mysticism (asrár-i tawhíd [= the secrets of (Divine) Oneness],
although, like many other books devoted to a particular subject, it
includes matter that is merely accessory and incidental to its main
purpose. (Nicholson, Commentary) The shop of legal questions is
(in) the books of secondary matters. And the seekers of the
questions about (spiritual) poverty and annihilation [fanâ] are the
dervishes [fuqarâ]. This noble book [= the Mathnawi] is the
essential explanation of (spiritual) poverty and annihilation (of
self) and yearning [khwâhân]. The knowledge of (spiritual)
poverty and annihilation may be found in this shop of the
Mathnawi. (Anqaravi, Commentary)

8. (1528) it is an idol: I.e. a means of attraction. (Nicholson,
footnote). The meaning is that it leads the reader astray from
worshiping the One True God. It means, In its essence, our
Mathnawi [= our (book of) rhymed couplets] is the shop of the
secrets of Absolute Unity; it is also the shop of (Divinely) inspired
areas of knowledge [`ulûm-é ladunî] and the sciences of (spiritual)
certainty. Whatever you see in this noble book besides the secrets
of the Oneness of Reality and descriptions of Divine Unity....
resembles an idol..... And otherwise, talk about (anything) other
than the knowledge Oneness (such as) stories, parables, and
metaphors in this noble book would not have been mentioned. But
every (kind) of knowledge and topic, other than the knowledge of
Absolute Unity, has come (into this book) for the sake of this: that
a group of people who are inclined to those (spiritual) sciences
may submit to them day and night. (Anqaravi, Commentary)


1522 pas khwadî-râ sar bo-borr, ay Zû l-faqâr
bê-khwadî shaw, fâniyê darwêsh-wâr

chûn shod-î bê-khwad har ân-che tô kon-î
mâ ramayta iZ ramaytî âmin-î

ân Zimân bar Haq bow-ad na bar amîn
hast tafSîl-ash ba-fiqh andar mubîn

1525 har dukânê râst sawdâyê degar
maSnawî dukkân-é faqr-ast ay pesar

dar dukân-é kafsh-gar charm-ast khûb
qâlib-é kafsh-ast agar bîn-î to, chûb

pêsh-é bazzâz-ân qaz-o adkan bow-ad
bahr-é gaz bâsh-ad agar âhan bow-ad

1528 maSnawîy-é mâ dukân-é waHdat-ast
ghayr-é wâhid har-che bîn-î ân bot-ast

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)