The Mouse and the Frog (part one)

Mathnawi VI: 2632-2639, 2665-2685

The story of the attachment of a mouse and a frog:2 both BR> of their feet were tied (together)with a long string, the crow BR> carryied the frog up (into the air), the frog was dangled BR> (from above), and his lamenting and regretted the BR> attachment with (one) other than (his own) kind and not BR> making (attachment) with his own kind.

2632 By destiny,2 a mouse and a loyal frog had become
acquainted (with each other) on the bank of a river.

Both individuals were bound (together) by a fixed time
(of meeting), (and) they were coming to a certain corner
every morning.

`They were playing (the game of) "backgammon of the
heart"3 with each other (and) they cleansed (their) hearts
of (any) evil thoughts (about each other).

2635 From the (daily) encounter, the hearts of both (became)
expanded (with happiness), (and they were) story-tellers and
listeners to each other--

Tellers of secrets with the tongue and without the
tongue (and) knowers of the interpretation of (the saying of
the Prophet), "The gathering together (of the believers) is
a Mercy (from God)."4

When that joyous (mouse) would associate with that happy
(frog), a story (the length) of "five years"5 would come to
mind for him.

The surging of speech from the heart is a sign of
(close) friendship, (whereas) the blockage of speech is due
to a lack of friendship.

2639 The heart which has seen the beloved will never stay
sour. (And) a nightingale (which) has seen the rose will
never stay silent.6

. . . . . . .

The mouse planned with the frog, saying, "I am unable to
come to you in the water at the time of (my) need (for
contact). There should be a bond of union between us so that
I will be able to inform you when I come to the river bank
and you will be able to inform me when you come to the
hole (leading to) the mouse's house," and so on.

2665 This topic [about the flow of speech]7 has no end. The
mouse said to the frog one day, "O lamp of understanding!

"(Some) times I wish that I could speak secrets to you,
(but) you are roving (around) in the water.

"I'm on the river bank shouting for you (but) you don't
hear the lamenting cries of lovers, (since you're) in the

"O fearless one! At the appointed time, I don't (ever)
become satiated from talking with you."

The ritual prayer is (appointed) five times (a day),8
(but) the guide for the lovers (of God) is (the verse),
"(Those who are) continually in their prayer."9

2670 The wine-sickness10 which is in those heads gets no
soothing with five (times of prayer), nor (with) five
hundred thousand (times).

"Visit once a week"11 is not the daily allowance of the
lovers (of God), (for) the souls of the sincere and true
(lovers) are extremely thirsty (and always craving more).12

"Visit once a week" is not the daily allowance of the
fish, because they don't have spiritual friendship without
the ocean.13

The water of this ocean,14 which is (in) a vast place, is
but a single gulp to the wine-sickness of (those) fish.15

One moment of separation (is) like a year for the lover,
(and even) continuous union for a year (is like) a (brief)
day dream to him.16

2675 Love17 is (continually) craving to drink,18 (and is)
seeking an (equally) thirsty (lover); this one and that one
(are) following in each other's tracks, like day and night.19

Day is the lover of the night and (its state) is
agitated and desperate. (And) if you look, the night is
(even) more in love with it.20

They are not (resting) from seeking for a moment, nor
are they (resting) for a single instant from following each

This one (has) grabbed the foot of that one (and) that
one (has grabbed) the ear of this one. This one is (made)
amazed and faint by that one (and) that one is (made) crazed
and unconscious21 by this one.

The lover is all and everything within the beloved's
heart. Wamiq is always in the heart of (his beloved) Azra.22

2680 (And) there is nothing in the heart of the lover except
the beloved; there is no divider or separator within their

Both of these bells23 are on a single camel-- so how can
(the saying) "Visit once a week" fill (the needs of) these

No one has ever made a "visit once a week" to himself,
nor was anyone ever friends with himself periodically.

That Oneness (is) not (that) which the intellect can
understand; the understanding of this depends upon the
(spiritual) death of a man.24

And if the understanding of this (Oneness) were possible
for the intellect, there would have been no reason for the
requirement25 of harsh severity toward the ego-mind.26

2685 The King of the mind27 would never say (in the Qur'an),
without necessity, "Slay yourselves (since that will be
better for you)"28 -- with such (Infinite) Mercy that He has.

--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" (, 10/25/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (Heading) The story of the attachment of a mouse and a
frog: "This allegory of the soul and its 'bad companion'
(see vv. 2735-2737 infra) [which Nicholson translated: "The
body is like a string (tied) on the foot of the soul,
drawing it (down) from Heaven to earth. When the frog-like
soul escapes from the mouse-like body into the water, (which
is) the sleep of unconsciousness, it enters into a happy
state; (But) the mouse-like body pulls it back with that
string: how much bitterness does the soul taste from this
pulling!"] is founded on the so-called Aesopian fable to
which Dante alludes (Inferno, XXIII 4-6). 'A frog having
offered to carry a mouse across a piece of water, tied it to
its leg; but when they got half-way, the frog treacherously
dived and the mouse was drowned. Suddenly a kite swooped
down and devoured both of them'." (Nicholson, Commentary)

2. (2632) By destiny: Nicholson translated idiomatically,
"As it happened..." "(It means), 'By the Divine Decree."
(Anqaravi, the famous 17th century Turkish commentator,
translated here into English from a Persian translation)

3. (2634) They were playing (the game of) "backgammon of
the heart": Nicholson translated, "they played
heart-and-soul with one another..." And he explained:
""Literally, "played the backgammon of the heart."

4. (2636) "The gathering together (of the believers) is a
Mercy (from God)": a saying of the Prophet Muhammad
[al-jamâ`ah raHmah]. " Nicholson translated (here and in I:
3017), "A united party is a (Divine) Mercy." However, he
suggested that, "'Union' is perhaps a better rendering of
jamá`at in this Hadíth." (Commentary)

"If it is asked how the mouse and frog knew the
interpretation (of the saying, 'Gathering together is a
Mercy (from God),' and how they were (able to) tell secrets
to each other, the answer is: The intended meaning of the
mouse is the follower of (external) forms, because he is the
greedy possessor of the mouse's character and nature. The
intended meaning of the frog is the follower of the (sufi)
path [Tarîqat] and the posessor of goodness, obedience and
worship of God, and (spiritual) knowledge and mystical
knowledge [ma`rifat]-- because he is a dweller in the river
way and has these acquaintances. Any time that a follower of
(external) forms becomes attached to a follower of goodness
and the (sufi) path and develop friendship, (harmful)
situations are never evaded in this manner." (Anqaravi,

5. (2537) a story (the length) of "five years": an idiom
meaning a very lengthy story, so long it would take five
years to tell.

6. (2539) a nightingale (which) has seen the rose will
never stay silent: a common metaphor in Persian literature,
in which the nightingale is viewed as the lover who sings
songs of longing love to his beloved, the rose.

7. (2665) This topic [about the flow of speech]: refers to
Rumi's comments (just prior) about the surging of speech
from the heart, especially from the hearts of the Prophets.

8. (2669) The ritual prayer is (appointed) five times (a
day): "And keep up the ritual prayer at the two ends of the
day and during the approaches of the night." (Qur'an 11:114)
This is a general prescription, and the specific times were
taught by the Prophet Muhammad: between the first light of
dawn until just before sunrise; just after the sun passes
noon until shadows of things are doubled; after the shadows
of things are doubled until the sun first starts to
disappear; just after the sunset until the disappearance of
the twilight; after the disappearance of the twilight until
the first light of dawn (but preferably done about an hour
and a half after sunset or prior to midnight). The Persian
word, "namâz," is used here which is a translation of the
Arabic term, "Salât." It consists of a set of ritual
positions (done either alone or, preferably, in a group):
standing, bowing with hands on the knees, prostration of
one's forehead and nose to the ground/floor, and sitting.

9. (2669) "(Those who are) continually in their prayer":
"Except those who pray (devotedly) [muSallîn]-- those who
are continually at their prayer [Salâti-him]." (Qur'an
70:22-23). Rumi altered the words slightly for metrical
purposes. "Cf. the Hadíth al-insánu fí salát-in má dáma
yantaziru 'l-saláta [= A man is continuing in the (ritual)
prayer who waits (eagerly) for the (next) prayer]; but of
course Rúmí interprets 'continuing in (the ritual) prayer'
as dawám-i dhikr ú musháhadah" [= continuous remembrance and
contemplation (of God)]. (Nicholson, Commentary) "A lover
(of God) whose behavior, while expecting the appointed times
of the ritual prayer (to begin), is contemplating the
Beloved and who finds complete delight and pleasure in
prayer-- such a lover is continuously in the state of the
ritual prayer. Just as the Prophet-- may the blessings and
peace of God be upon him-- said, 'A man is continuing in the
(ritual) prayer who waits (eagerly) for the (next) prayer.'"
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

"The (general) believers have been satisfied and content
with the performance of ritual prayers five times during the
appointed times (every day), imploring God (for favors). But
the lovers (of God) are always in the ritual prayer [namâz]
and have continual (engagement) in the ritual prayer-- since
God Most High has said: 'And they are watchful guardians
over (the faithful performance of) their ritual prayers'."
(Qur'an 6:92; 23:9; 70:34) (Anqaravi, Commentary)

10. (2770) wine-sickness [khumâr]: this refers to the
various effects of drinking wine: including agitated
intoxication, drowsy languor, headache, stomach
disturbances, and thirst. "Nicholson translated, "The
wine-headache that is in those heads..." Here it means
restless and incessant spiritual yearning for God, the only

11. (2671) Visit once a week: "The Hadíth [= saying of the
Prophet Muhammad], zur ghibb-an tazdad hubb-an [= Visit once
a week (so that) you may increase love], implying that
'absence makes the heart grow fonder', is a maxim for the
worldly-wise." (Nicholson, Commentary)

"Therefore the Tradition, "Visit once a week" is for the
sake of the people of a (worldly) temperament, since people
with a (normal) constitution become (easily) bored with
anything they experience. But the people of Love increase
their love, little by little, with any amount (of time) they
encounter their Beloved and (with) any amount (of time) they
speak to Him." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

12. (2671) extremely thirsty (and always craving more):
refers to a type of edema (the old-fashioned term was
"dropsy"), a medical condition in which the patient
frequently craves and/or begs for more water to relieve a
thirst which is not satisfied (and liquids must be
restricted so that the edema, or bloatedness of the belly is
not increased further).

"For the comparison of the `áshiq [= lover] to a man
suffering from dropsy, see III 3884 sqq. The mystical
doctrine enunciated here has been set forth in the Story of
the Wakíl of Bukhárá: see especially III 4389-4399,
4442-444, with the notes ad loc., and III 4597-4600."
(Nicholson Commentary)

13. (2672) they don't have spiritual friendship without the
ocean: Nicholson translated less literally, "they feel no spiritual
joy without the Sea."

14. (2673) ocean: "The meaning of "ocean" here: it is the
ocean of worship [Tâ`at] and love [maHabbat] (of God).

15. (2673) is only a single gulp for the wine-sickness of
(those) fish: Nicholson translated, "Notwithstanding the
crop-sickness of the fishes, the water of this Sea, which is
a tremendous place, is but a single draught (too little to
satisfy them)." Nicholson referred to his comments on
Mathnawi I: 17 ("Anyone other than a fish became satiated by
water"): "Infinite Divine grace is to the gnostic [= mystic
knower] what water is to the fish, but his thirst can never
be quenched." (Commentary)

16. (2674) continuous union for a year (is like) a (brief)
day dream to him: "A union which declines and fades is like
an mental fantasy and day dream for the lover. The lover
wants continuous and lasting union." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

17. (2675) Love: Nicholson interpreted the word "Love"
[`ishq] here as meaning the beloved [ma`shûq]. "It means: In
reality, Love is very thirsty for the lover and is in search
of the lover and, like day and night, Love and the lover are
following one another." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

18. (2675) is (continually) craving to drink [mustasqî-st]:
there is evidently a typographical error in Tôfîq SubHânî's
edition of the earliest manuscript of the Masnavi (he has
"mustaqî-st" in contrast to Nicholson's edition).

19. (2675) following in each other's tracks, like day and
night: this is a metaphor which occurs a number of times in
the Qur'an. "O God... You make the night to enter into the
day and You make the day to enter into the night." (3:26)

Nicholson also referred to Mathnawi III: 4417-19, which
he translated: "Likewise night and day are in mutual
embrace: (they are) different in appearance, but (are
really) in agreement. Day and night, outwardly, are two
contraries and enemies, but they both attend on one truth--
Each desiring the other, like kinsfolk, for the sake of
perfecting their action and work."

20. (2676) (even) more in love with it: Anqaravi quotes a
Persian verse: "Although the lovers are yearning for the
beauty of the beloved, the beloveds are (even) more in love
with the lovers than the lovers (are with them)." [`âshiq-ân
har-chand mushtâq-é jamâl-é del-bar-and/ del-bar-ân bar
`âshiq-ân az `âshiq-ân `âshiq-tar-and] (Commentary)

21. (2678) (made) amazed and faint... (made) crazed and
unconscious: a word play between "amazed/faint" [madhûsh]
and "crazed/unconscious" [bê-hôsh].

22. (2679) Wamiq is always in the heart of (his beloved)
Azra: "Wámiq is the hero and `Adhrá the heroine of a
love-romance by `Unsurí, of which only a few verses have
been preserved." (Nicholson, Commentary)

23. (2681) Both of these bells: i.e. 'lover' and 'beloved'
are really nothing but names for different aspects of the
One Essence (Love).

24. (2683) the understanding of this depends upon the
(spiritual) death of a man: Nicholson translated, "the
apprehension of this (oneness) depends on a man's dying (to

25. (2684) the requirement: means a requirement, in general,
to discipline the selfish desires of the ego. More
specifically, it means that it is a requirement for the
mystics to annihilate their own egos in order to experience
transcendent spiritual reality. In other words, the mind has
to cease thinking in order for transcence of the mind to
begin at the first stages. "Although killing one's [bodily]
self is not required of the servant (of God)... it is known
that putting an end to the desires and cravings of the self
[nafs] and killing it in the Path to the Divine [Tarîq-é
ilâhî]-- and prior to the arrival of (bodily) death-- is
required of the servant (of God)." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

26. (2684) harsh severity toward the ego-mind [nafs]:
"combat" against the craving ego-mind is obligatory for
sufis. Because of the cravings of the base self, man often
chooses to go astray, and by it Satan leads man astray as
well. According to a tradition [Hadîth] of the Prophet
Muhammad, after returning with his army, following a battle
against the polytheists (who sought to annihilate all the
Muslim monotheists), he announced: "We have come from the
Lesser Struggle [jiHâdu 'l-aSghar] to the Greater Struggle
[jiHâdu 'l-akbar]," meaning the struggle against the base
self and its selfish passions. The Prophet also said, "Your
worst enemy is your (base) self which is between your two

27. (2685) The King of the mind: means the Creator of the
human mind and intellect. Nicholson translated, "King of

28. (2685) "Slay yourselves (since that will be better for
you)": this is a sufi interpretation of a verse which
relates how Moses was ordered by God to tell those of his
followers who worshipped the golden calf to kill themselves
as a punishment for their infidelity. "O my people! Truly
you have harmed yourselves by taking the calf (as a god
besides God), so turn in repentance toward your Sustaining
Lord and kill your selves [anfusa-kum]. That will be better
for you in the presence of your Creator." (2:54) Although
this is clearly a reference to the mass slaughter commanded
by Moses in Exodus 32: 27-28), the account is milder in the
Qur'an. And due to the fact that there is a prior command to
repent, it has been understood by some commentators as
metaphorical. Therefore, it has been translated as "mortify
yourselves" (Muhammad Asad) and "kill your passions"
(Muhammad Ali). The sufis take this verse by itself and
interpret it as a command to kill the ego-self which
dominates the human mind and will.

"Slaying of the base self [nafs] and passing away from
(attachment) to 'me and us' is the means to understanding
this Unity." (Anqaravi, Commentary)


Hikâyat-é ta`alluq-é mûsh bâ chaghz wa bastan-é pay-é har dô
ba-reshta-yé darâz wa bar kashîdan-é zâgh mûsh-râ wa
mu`allaq-shodan chaghz wa nâlîdan wa pashîmânî-yé ô az
ta`alluq bâ ghayr-é jins wa bâ jins-é khwad nâ-sâkhtan

2632 az qaZâ mûshê-wo chaghzê bâ-wafâ
bar lab-é jô gashta bûd-and âshnâ

har dô tan marbûT-é mîqâtê shod-and
har SabâHê gôsha'yê mê-âmad-and

nard-é del bâ ham-degar mê-bâkht-and
az wasâwis sîna mê-pardâkht-and

2635 har dô-râ del az talâqî muttasi`
ham-degar-râ qiSSa-khwân-o mustami`

râz-gôyân bâ-zabân-o bê-zabân
al-jamâ`ah raHmah-râ tâ'wîl-dân

ân ashir chûn joft-é ân shâd âmady
panj sâla qiSSa-ash yâd âmady

jôsh-é nuTq az del neshân-é dôstî-st
bastagîy-é nuTq az bê-ulfatî-st

2639 del ke del-bar dîd, kay mân-ad torosh
bolbolê gol dîd, kay mân-ad khamosh?

. . . . . . .

tadbîr-kardan-é mûsh ba-chaghz ke man na-mê-tawân-am bar-é
tô âmadan ba-waqt-é Hâjat dar âb, miyân-é mâ wuSlatê bây-ad
ke chûn man bar lab-é jô ây-am to-râ tawân-am khabar-kardan
wa tô chûn bar sar-é sôrâkh-é mûsh-khâna ây-î ma-râ tawân-î
khabar-kardan, ilà âkhirah

2665 în sokhon pây-ân na-dâr-ad, goft mûsh
chaghz-râ rôzê ke ay miSbâH-é hôsh

waqt-hâ khwâh-am ke gôy-am bâ tô râz
tô darûn-é âb dâr-î tork-tâz

bar lab-é jô man to-râ na`ra-zanân
na-sh'naw-î dar âb nâla-yé `âshiq-ân

man ba-d-în waqt-é mu`ayyan ay delêr
mê-na-gard-am az muHâkât-é tô sêr

panj waqt âmad namâz-o rah-namûn
`âshiq-ân-râ fî Salât-in dâ'imûn

2670 na ba-panj ârâm gîr-ad ân khumâr
ke dar ân sar-hâ-st, nê pânSad hazâr

nêst zur ghibb-an waZîfa-yé `âshiq-ân
sakht mustasqî-st jân-é Sâdiq-ân

nêst zur ghibb-an waZîfa-yé mâhiy-ân
z-ân-ke bê-daryâ na-dâr-and uns-é jân

âb-é în daryâ ke Hâyil-buq`a'yê-st
bâ khumâr-é mâhiy-ân khwad jur`a'ê-st

yak-dam-é hijrân bar-é `âshiq chô sâl
waSl-é sâlê mutaSSil pêsh-ash khayâl

2675 `ashq mustasqî-st, mustasqî-Talab
dar pay-é ham în-o ân chûn rôz-o shab

rôz bar shab `âshiq-ast-o muZTar-ast
chûn be-bîn-î shab bar-ô `âshiq-tar-ast

nêst-eshân az jost-jô yak laHZa'ê-st
az pay-é ham-shân yakê damê-st nêst

în gerefta pây-é ân, ân gôsh-é în
în bar ân madhûsh-o ân bê-hôsh-é în

dar del-é ma`shûq jumla `âshiq-ast
dar del-é `aZrâ hamêsha wâmiq-ast

2680 dar del-é `âshiq ba-joz ma`shûq nêst
dar meyân-shân fâriq-o fârûq nêst

bar yakê oshtor bow-ad în dô darâ
pas che zur ghibb-an be-gonj-ad în dô-râ?

hêch kas bâ-khwêsh zur ghibb-an namûd
hêch kas bâ-khwad ba-nawbat yâr bûd?

ân yakîyê na ke `aql-ash fahm kard
fahm-é în mûqûf shod bar marg-é mard

w-ar ba-`aql idrâk-é în mumkin body
qahr-é nafs az bahr-é che wâjib shody?

2685 bâ chon-ân raHmat ke dâr-ad shâh-é hosh
bê-Zarûrat chûn be-gôy-ad nafs kosh?

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)