A story in affirmation (of the truth) that patient endurance
in a miserable (worldly) affair is easier than endurance in
being separated from the Beloved.
1758 A woman said to her husband, "Listen, O you who have
crushed manly generosity in a single moment:1
"Why don't you have any sympathy and care for me (any
more)? How long will I be (stuck) in this miserable
1760 (Her) husband said, "I'm using (every) means for
(earning our) living expenses. Even though I'm threadbare,3
I'm striving with (my) hands and feet (to provide).
"O (my) beloved, living expenses and clothing are
required;4 both of these are (provided) to you by me, and
are not wanting."
(His) wife displayed the sleeve of (her) upper garment,5
which was very coarse and full of grime.
She said, "My body is uncomfortable because of (its)
roughness. Does anyone bring clothing of this (kind of)
appearance to someone?"
He replied, "O wife, I ask you one question: I'm a poor
man. My skills are fit only for this (amount).
1765 "This (garment of yours) is coarse, thick, and
displeasing. But think (carefully about this), O (my)
"Is this garment more course and disagreeable, or (is)
divorce?6 Is it more hateful to you, or (is) separation?"
O sir (who are also) blaming and scolding because of
(your) misfortune, poverty, suffering, and afflictions:
Without doubt, this forsaking of (worldly) desires is
giving (you) bitter hardship. But is the bitterness of
(being) far from God better?7
Although struggle (against cravings)8 and fasting is
difficult and hard, still, these are better than (being)
distant from the One who Tests (people with hardship).9
1770 Suffering can never remain for a moment when the Lord
of Kind Favors says to you, "How are you, O my suffering
And even if He doesn't say (this), because you lack the
understanding and skill for (sensing) it,10 yet your (inward)
savor of joy is (proof of) His asking (about you).11
Those delightful beautiful ones, who are spiritual
doctors,12 are inclined toward the sickly with questions
(about their condition).
And if they act cautiously due to (concerns about
anyone's) embarrassment or reputation, they prepare some
(kind of) remedy and send a message (about it).
And if not, that (provision of care) is contemplated
within their hearts.13 (For) no beloved is unaware of a
1775 O you (who are) seeking unusual stories: read also the
tale of those who play the game of love.15
You've boiled (so) much during this long period of time.
(And yet), O dried meat, you haven't even become
You've seen (examples of) the administration of (Divine)
Justice and Judgment (during) a (whole) lifetime-- and
(even) then you are more increased (in your ignorance)17 than
those who are blind.
Whoever has performed service as His student becomes a
master. But you have gone backwards, O quarrelsome blind
1779 As it is, there isn't (any profit from) the experience
of (being advised by) your parents.19 Likewise, there isn't
(any profit from) the lessons (given) by night and day20 to
--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" (yahoogroups.com),8/30/01
Notes on the text, with line number:
1. (1758) O you who have crushed manly generosity in a
single moment: Nicholson translated, "finished with
generosity once and for all." And he explained: "Literally,
'folded up.'" (Footnote) "(It means), 'O you who have
completely trampled upon manly generosity.'" (Anqaravi, the
17th century Turkish commentator, translated here into
English from a Persian translation)
2. (1759) in this miserable 'pasture': Nicholson translated
less literally, "in this abode of misery." And he explained:
"Literally, 'pasture.'" (Footnote) He also noted that,
although "G [= the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawi]
writes chará (= charídan) [= pasture, from the verb "to
pasture, to graze"], but chirá [= why] (Fa) [= Anqaravi] is
possible: 'how long (and) for what purpose?'" (Commentary)
In other words, it could also be translated, "How long will
I be (stuck) in this misery? (And) why? [cherâ]"
3. (1760) threadbare [`ûr]: literally, "naked." An idiom
meaning extreme poverty. Nicholson translated, "destitute."
"(It means), 'Although I'm poor and empty-handed...'"
4. (1761) living expenses and clothing are required: "(It
means), '...are obligatory for the husband." In Islam, the
husband is responsible for providing food, clothing, and
protection to his wife (plus a dowry at the time of
"It means, 'It is the right of the wife upon the
husband, and that which is obligatory for the husband (to
provide), O beloved. But it is only living expenses and
clothing.' The intended meaning of 'clothing' is something
which hinders (feeling) cold [and covers nakedness]. And the
meaning of 'living expenses' is the cost of food so as to be
able to avert hunger. Therefore, 'The same amount by which
hunger no longer continues and (by which) the effects of
cold are not left upon you is sufficient for you. And I'm
ensuring both of these for your sake. Therefore, whatever my
required duty is, I'm carrying it out. And that which is
necessary for you is sufficient and adequate with this
5. (1762) (her) upper garment: a type of woman's long
shirt, or a shift (a straight and loose-fitting dress).
6. (1766) or divorce: she would be far more miserable, as
an impoverished woman (and beggar), trying to survive
without her husband's support. "(It means), 'If separation
from me is (more) bitter and unpleasant to you, then be
satisfied with this (amount of) provision, be patient with
discomfort and hardship, and be content and enduring.'"
7. (1768) But is the bitterness of (being) far from God
better: "But the bitter hardship of being far from God lasts
forever. Therefore, enduring the bitterness of that (worldly
discomfort) is better than enduring the bitterness of
separation from (God) in both ways. Just as has been said
(by an anonymous Persian poet): 'Without You, O tranquillity
of my soul, life is difficult (to endure); without (the
delight of) looking at Your Beauty, happiness is difficult
(to endure).' [bê-tô, ay ârâm-é jân-am, zendagânî
mushkil-ast; bê-tamâshây-é jamâl-at, shâdmânî mushkil-ast]"
8. (1769) struggle (against cravings): although the word
here [jihâd], is often mistranslated using the Christian
term, "Holy War," it means any kind of struggle for the sake
of God (of which defensive military combat or battling
against extreme oppression is only one kind). Among the
sufis, the term usually means struggling against the
self-centered desires and cravings of the ego [nafs].
Nicholson translated, "fighting (against the flesh)." "(It
means), 'Although struggling against the ego [bâ-nafs
muhâhida-kardan], keeping the fast [= of Ramadan], and being
patient with difficult responsibilities is hard...'"
9. (1769) the One who Tests (people with hardship)
[mumtaHin]: an Attribute of God (the word is related to
"afflictions" [miHan], in line 1767), meaning that all
afflictions are sent by God as tests and trials of human
beings-- especially those who have distanced themselves from
Him by insisting on the gratification of their own
self-centered desires and refusing to submit patiently to
the Divine Will.
10. (1771) because you lack the understanding and skill for
(sensing) it: "It means, 'You are unable to find and know
the (apparent) reason of (His) not asking. But that (inward)
pleasure of yours is itself (His) asking.'" (Anqaravi,
11. (1771) yet your (inward) savor of joy is (proof of) His
asking (about you): Nicholson translated, "yet thy inward
feeling (of supplication) is (equivalent to His) inquiring
(after thee)." It means that if you experience an inward
feeling of subtle pleasure, this is the same as God's
addressing you with loving-kindness. Nicholson referred to
Rumi's lines (translated by him): "At every moment (there
come) to him from God a hundred missives, a hundred
couriers: from him one (cry of) 'O my Lord!' and from God a
hundred (cries of) Labbayka' ('Here am I')." (Mathnawi I:
1578) He explained this, and gave further citations of the
theme: "Selfless prayer is accompanied by an immediate
inward response (II 1190 sqq.); nay, such prayer springs
from the presence of God in the heart and is answered before
it is uttered (III 195 sqq.; cf. VI 870, 1771, 1986, 4239)."
Of the above citations, the most well-known is the story
of the man who was praying, "Allah! Allah!" until Satan
convinced him it was useless, for no "Here I am" would ever
be said to him from the Throne of God. The man became
broken-hearted, but had a dream in which Khidr (the
mysterious guide of the sufis) gave him a message from God:
"That 'Allah!' of yours is My 'I am here for you'
[labbayka]. And that neediness, (yearning) pain, and burning
of yours is My message (to you." (Mathnawi III: 189-195)
12. (1772) spiritual doctors: literally, "doctors of the
heart." Refers to the saints of God-- sufi masters and
guides, who are blessed by God with spiritual beauty.
13. (1774) And if not, that (provision of care) is
contemplated within their hearts: "Even if they are unable
to go (physically) with questions about the conditions of
their sick lovers [= spiritual disciples], still, they
accomplish a mental [= psychic] asking about that sick lover
within their thoughts and imagination at a distance."
14. (1774) no beloved is unaware of a (devoted) lover:
Nicholson translated, "no beloved is unaware (forgetful) of
his lover." Means that God is never unaware of His lovers,
and sends them spiritual relief and remedy via His saints,
who are the physicians of the spiritual problems of the
heart. The latter (both living and departed from the
physical world, according to the sufis) are made aware by
God of such suffering spiritual seekers and send them help,
either directly, indirectly, psychically, or by praying for
"The poor in spirit who suffer for God's sake are loved
and cared for by His saints." Nicholson referred to Rumi's
story of how God inspired the Prophet Muhammad to visit a
Muslim slave named Hilâl, who was very sick, and also
neglected by his master (VI: 1150-1185).
15. (1775) read also the tale of those who play the game of
love: "(It means), '... so you may know that every beloved
certainly has been aware of his heart-sick (lover).'"
16. (1776) half-boiled: literally, "Turk-boiled."
"Literally, 'meat boiled by Turcomans [= Tatars] (and eaten
half-raw).'" (Nicholson, Footnote) Nicholson referred to
another use of this metaphor, which he translated: ...a
half-raw (imperfect) explanation of it, (like) the
Turcomans' ill-boiled meat..." (III: 3749).
"(It means), 'Those lovers who risk all for love were
boiling in the pot of love, became completely cooked, and
eventually found (spiritual) perfection., But you... (who
are) like dried meat have not passed from (the state of)
rawness.'" The word translated as "cooked" [pokhta] is a
sufi technical term meaning spiritually matured; the word
"rawness" (or " being uncooked") means being spiritually
immature-- still a beginner on the Path.
17. (1777) you are more increased (in your ignorance):
Nicholson translated, "thou art more ignorant..." And he
explained, "Literally, 'greater upstarts,' i.e. more
uninitiated and uninformed." (Footnote)
18. (1778) But you have gone backwards, O quarrelsome blind
man [kôr-é ludd]: Nicholson translated, "blind fool." "(It
means), 'But what is strange in this (case) is that, O more
foolish than a fool, you have gone backwards every day and
decreased (in your progress).'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)
19. (1779) there isn't (any profit from) the experience of
(being advised by) your parents: Nicholson translated,
"Verily thou hast learned nothing from thy parents." And he
explained: "I.e. 'You complain of tribulation and ignore
God's loving-kindness shown in the fond care and affection
of your parents and countless other blessings bestowed on
you every day and night'." (Commentary)
20. (1779) the lessons (given) by night and day: "(It means)
contrary conditions... like night and day... grief and
happiness, poverty and wealth.... Just like when the night
of the (life of this) world has passed, the day of the
Hereafter will arrive. Necessarily, during the 'day' of the
Hereafter, the truths of everything and the thoughts and
secrets of every one will become visible. Therefore, various
kinds of lessons should be gained from (the example of) day
and night." (Anqaravi, Commentary)
Hikâyat dar taqrîr-é ân-ke Sabr dar ranj-é kâr sahl-tar
az Sabr dar firâq-é yâr bow-ad
1758 ân yakê zan shôy-é khwad-râ goft hay
ay maruwwat-râ ba-yak rah karda Tay
hêch tîmâr-am na-mê-dâr-î cherâ
tâ ba-kay bâsh-am dar-în khwâriy-é charâ?
1760 goft shô man nafqa châra mê-kon-am
gar-che `ûr-am dast-o payê mê-zan-am
nafqa-wo kiswah-st wâjib, ay Sanam
az man-at în har dô hast-o nêst kam
âstin-é pêrahan be-n'mûd zan
bas dorosht-o por-wasakh bod pêrahan
goft az sakhtî tan-am-râ mê-khwor-ad
kas kasê-râ kiswah z-în sân âwar-ad?
goft ay zan yak sû'âl-at mê-kon-am
mard-é darwêsh-am, ham-în âmad fan-am
1765 în dorosht-ast-o ghalîZ-o nâ-pasand
lêk be-'ndêsh ay zan-é andêsha-mand
în dorosht-o zesh-tar yâ khwad Talâq
în to-râ makrûh-tar yâ khwad firâq?
ham-chon-ân ay khwâja-yé tashnî`-zan
az balâ-wo faqr-o az ranj-o miHan
lâ-shak în tark-é hawâ talkhî-deh-ast
lêk az talkhîy-é bu`d-é Haq beh-ast
gar jihâd-o Sawm sakht-ast-o khashin
lêk în beh-tar ze-bu`d-é mumtaHin
1770 ranj kay mân-ad damê ke Zû 'l-minan
gôy-ad-at chûn-î tô, ay ranjûr-é man?
w-ar na-gôy-ad, ke-t na ân fahm-o fan-ast
lêk ân Zawq-é tô porsesh-kardan-ast
ân malîH-ân ke Tabîb-ân-é del-and
sôy-é ranjûr-ân ba-porsesh mâyil-and
w-ar HaZar az nang-o az nâmî kon-and
châra'yé sâz-and-o payghâmê kon-and
w-ar-na dar del-shân bow-ad ân muftakar
nêst ma`shûqê ze-`âshiq bê-khabar
1775 ay tô jôyây-é nawâdir dâstân
ham fosâna-yé `ishq-bâz-ân-râ be-khwân
bas be-jôshîd-î dar în `ahd-é madîd
tork-jôsh-î ham na-gasht-î ay qadîd
dîda-î `umrê tô dâd-o dâwarî
w-ân-gah az nâ-dîd-agân nâshî-tar-î
har-ke shâgerdî-sh kard, ostâd shod
tô sepas-tar rafta-î, ay kôr-é lud
1779 khwad na-b'w-ad az wâlidayn-at ikhtibâr
ham na-b'w-ad-at `ibrat az layl-o nahâr
(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)