In the "Collected Poetic Works" (Kulliyât-é Ash`âr) of Shâh
Ni`matu 'llâh Walî-- raHmatu 'llâhi `alay-hi (d. 1431 C.E.)-- there
is a very interesting interpretation of a ghazal by Mawlânâ --
raHima-hu 'llâhu (No. 1095 in Forûzânfar's edition). Shâh Ni'matu
'llâh has added his own commentary using the same meter and
rhyme: first he quotes two verses of Mawlânâ's ghazal, followed
by two interpretive verses of his own, then two verses of the
original ghazal, and so on. The result is a poem which is twice as
long, which expresses Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's appreciation and love
of Mawlânâ's poetry.
The text which Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh used has a different ordering of
some of the verses as well as textual differences in most of the
verses (primarily minor differences, but some major ones) when
compared to the earliest manuscripts of Mawlânâ's "Dîvân" (as
edited by Forûzânfar). For this reason, Forûzânfar's text of the
ghazal has been substituted here for the text quoted and
commented on by Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh.
In what follows, Mawlânâ's ghazal is transliterated and translated
based upon the text in Forûzânfar's edition. Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's
poetic commentary is transliterated and translated from his
"Kulliyât-é Ash`âr." Comments by this author are made about
Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's poetic commentaries in each section. This
includes mention of major textual differences (between the text
that he used for Mawlânâ's ghazal and the text in Forûzânfar's
edition) which affected his interpretations. A listing of the minor
and major differences are added in footnotes below (based on
"Kulliyât-é Ash`âr-é Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh Valî," QaSîda No. 17, pp.
641-643, edited by Javâd Nûrbakhsh, Tehran, 2000,). In addition,
explanations of key terms and word-plays in both Mawlânâ's and
Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's verses are added in footnotes.
11564 dâd jârôbê ba-dast-am ân negâr
goft k-az daryâ bar-angêzân ghubâr
11565 bâz ân jârôb-râ z-âtash be-sôkht
goft k-az âtash tô jârôbê bar-âr
That (beautiful) idol2 put a broom into my hand (and) said, "Raise
up the dust from the ocean!"
Also, he burned the broom with fire (and) said, "Bring up a broom
out of the fire!"
(Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh:)
`aql jârôb-at negâr ân pîr-é kâr
bâTin-at daryâ-wo hastî chûn ghubâr
âtash-é `ishq-ash chô sôz-ad `aql-râ
bâz jârôbê ze-`ishq ây-ad ba-kâr
Your "broom" (is) the intellect (and) the "(beautiful) idol" is the
experienced (spiritual) Master. The "ocean" is your interior
(consciousness), and your (self-) existence (is) like the "dust."
When the fire of his love burns up the intellect, the broom (of
intellect) again becomes useful by means of love.
Here, Mawlânâ describes a situation of being asked to do the
impossible by his spiritual master, Shams-i Tabrîz. Shâh Ni`matu
'llâh interprets it to mean that what is impossible for the spiritual
disciple to do is to sweep away the "self-existence" of the ego by
means of his own mind. But by the power of the sufi master's
spiritual love, and the grace of God, the ordinary mind and ego of
the disciple may become burned up and "annihilated," with the
result that the intellect-- now transformed by love-- becomes fit for
use (and thus able to understand and know higher meanings).
11566 kard-am az Hayrat sujûdê pêsh-é ô
goft: bê-sâjid sujûdê khwash be-y-âr
11567 âh, bê-sâjid sujûdê chûn bow-ad?
goft: bê-chûn bâsh-ad-o bê-khâr-khâr
Out of amazement, I made a prostration (of obeisance)3 before
him. He said, "Produce an attractive prostration without a
(I said), "Oh, how can there be a prostration without a prostrator?"
He said, "It is incomparable and free of thorny troubles."
(Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh:)
`aql lây-é nâfiyah mê-dân hamê
`ishq iSbât-é Haqq-ast ay yâr-é ghâr
sajda bê-sâjid na-dân-î chûn bow-ad
ya`nî bê-hastî-yé sâjid sajda âr
You should know that the intellect is the "No" of denial (of other
gods)4 (while) Love is the affirmation of God the Most Real, O
Friend of the Cave.5
Don't you know how there is a prostration without a prostrator?
The meaning (is): Produce a prostration without the (self-)
existence6of the prostrator.
Here, Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh gives his answer to the commands to do
the seemingly impossible: the broom can be used and the
prostration can be done as commanded-- only if it is done without
the "self-existence" of the ego. The self-centered ego, with its
obsessive preoccupations with worldly desires, must be negated by
the denial of its hidden belief that it is a separate "god" and by the
affirmation that the only Self-Existence is the One Reality-- God,
Who is Ever-Living and Eternal.
11568 gardan-ak-râ pêsh kard-am goft-am-ash
sâjidê-râ sar be-bor az Zû 'l-faqâr
11569 têgh tâ ô bêsh zad sar bêsh shod
tâ be-rost az gardan-am sar sad hazâr
I put (my) neck forward (and) told him, "Sever the head of a
prostrator with (the sword of) Zû 'l-Faqâr!"7
As much as he cut more with the sword, more heads came to be--
until a hundred thousand heads grew from my neck.
(Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh:)
gardan-am ya`nî sar-é hastî bow-ad
têgh têz-é `ishq bâsh-ad Zû 'l-faqâr
chûn sar-é hastî be-bor-îd az badan
ma`rifat shod âshkârâ sad hazâr
"My neck" means that the head of (self-) existence is (continuing).
The "sword of Zû 'l-Faqâr" is the sharp (quality) of Love.
When you cut the head of (self-) existence from the body, spiritual
insight8 becomes a hundred thousand (times) manifest.
Here, Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh explains how difficult it is to annihilate
the self-existence of ego. But by the power of Love, self-existence
can pass away, and the "broom" of intellect can perceive Divine
11573 ay mizâj-at sard, kû tâsa-yé del-at?
andar-în garm-âba tâ kay în qarâr?
11574 bar-shaw az garm-âba-wo golkhan ma-raw
jâma kan dar-be-n'gar ân naqsh-o negâr
O you, with your cold temperament, where is the (bath) basin9 of
your heart? How long (will there be) this staying in this hot bath?
Get up from the hot bath and don't go (toward) the (burning) bath
furnace. Peel off (your) clothes (and) look at the pictures and
(beautiful) images (on the bath house walls)--
(Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh:)
gar fesorda nêst-î bar-khêz garm
tark-é Sûrat kon ba-ma`nî kon goZâr
Tâs-é del bar-kan az-în Hammâm-é tan
sôy-é bâgh-é jân kherâm ay bâ-waqâr
If you aren't frozen, get up fervently!10 Abandon (outward) form
(and) put (yourself near) to (inner) meaning.
Take away the (bath) basin11 of the heart from this hot bath of the
body (and) walk gracefully to the Garden of Soul, O possessor of
Here, Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's interpretation is faithful to two of
Mawlânâ's major teachings: (1) the need to transcend the limitations of the body; (2) the need to go beyond forms [Sûrat]
and to concentrate on inner meaning and spiritual reality [ma`nà].
11575 tâ be-bîn-î naqsh-hây-é del-robâ
tâ be-bîn-î rang-hây-é lâla-zâr
11578 khâk-o âb az `aks-é ô rangîn shoda
jân be-bârîda ba-tork-o zang-bâr
So that you may see the images of heart-attracting (beloveds),
(and) so that you may see the colors of the tulip garden.
From his reflection, earth and water12 became colored (and) life
rained upon Turks and (those from) Zanzibar.
(Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh:)
az Hujub bêrûn kherâm-ad bê-Hijâb
rawnaq-é gol-zâr-o jân-é lâla-zâr
lâla-zâr-o naqsh-hây-é bê Hisâb
az tajallî bâsh-ad ay SâHib-waqâr
He struts nobly beyond the curtains [of illusion] without a veil13
(toward) the Splendor of the rose garden and the Soul of the "tulip
(There) the "tulip garden" and the countless (attractive) "images"
are from (Divine) Splendor, O possessor of majesty.
Here, the text used by Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh differs substantially:
"Water and earth became luminous from His Light" [âb-o khâk az
nûr-é ô rôshan shoda]; "So that you may see countless images" [tâ
be-bîn-î naqsh-hây-é bê-Hisâb]. Whereas Mawlânâ continues to
mention the attractive pictures (which apparently include flowers)
on the bath house walls, which remind him of his spiritual beloved
and master, Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's commentary focuses on how the
"tulip garden" symbolizes the spiritual splendor of the soul which
is enjoyed by the illuminated sufi who strolls through the beauty of
such a "garden"-- free of the veils of ego and worldly-desires.
11572 sharq-o maghrib chî-st andar lâ-makân?
golkhanê târîk-o Hammâmê ba-kâr
[11576 chûn be-dîd-î sôy-é rawzan dar-negar
k-ân negâr az `aks-é rawzan shod negâr]14
11577 shash jehat Hammâm-o rawzan lâ-makân
bar sar-é rawzan jamâl-é shahr-yâr
What are east and west in (the midst) of the placeless? (Merely) a
dark bath furnace15 and a bath (ready) to be used.
[11576 When you have gazed, look toward the window, since that
picture became an image (of a beautiful beloved) by means of the
window's reflection (of light).]16
(Now) the hot bath is the six directions17 and the window (is) the
placeless (and) the beauty of the king is above the window.
(Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh:)
khalwat-é del lâ-makân-ast az yaqîn
rawzan-ash jân-ast-o jânân shahr-yâr
golkhan-é târîk nafs-é shawq-é to-st
chî-st Hammâm în tan-é nâ-pây-dâr
The "placeless" is certainly the (spiritual) solitude of the heart, its
"window" is the soul, and the "king" is the Beloved.
The "dark bath furnace" is your craving ego. What is the "hot
bath"? This impermanent body.
Here, Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's text lacks a line in Mawlânâ's original
ghazal, where the listener is asked to imagine himself gazing at the
pictures on the walls and then looking toward the window of the
bath house, which he interprets as symbolizing the source of the
beauty gazed upon-- beauty deriving from the "king." Shâh
Ni`matu 'llâh interprets the "king" as the "Beloved" and the
"placeless" as having a window into the realm of the soul.
Surprisingly, he ignores Mawlânâ's own interpretation: "the
window is the placeless" [rawzan lâ-makân] Instead Shâh Ni`matu
'llâh interprets that the "window" means the soul and that the
"window" is an attribute of the "placeless," which he interprets as
meaning the solitude of the heart. Although Mawlânâ's own
interpretation is that "the hot bath is the six directions" [shash jehat
Hammâm] (meaning the physical dimensions of the world-- since
the heading of his well-known parable in the Masnavi reads: "The
Likeness of the World (Being) Like A Bath Furnace" [miSâl-é
dunyâ chûn gôlkhan]), Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh takes a narrower view
that it symbolizes the impermanent body. He interprets that the
"dark bath furnace" is the craving ego [nafs-é shawq], which is
more consistent with what Mawlânâ said in the Masnavî: "The
craving desires of the world are like a bath furnace" [shahwat-é
dunyâ miSâl-é golkhan] (IV: 238).
11570 man cherâgh-o har sar-am ham-chûn fatîl
har Taraf andar gerefta az sharâr
11571 sham`-hâ mê-war-shod az sar-hây-é man
sharq tâ maghrib gerefta az qiTâr
(Then) I (became) a lamp and every head (became) like a wick;
every side was seized by sparks.
Candles kept rising18 from my heads, (and) east to west was taken
(up) by rows (of them).
(Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh:)
chûn goZar kard-î az în-o ân ba-`ishq
jâma dar pôsh az Sifât-ash Zât-wâr
bâz chûn ham-rang-o bôy-é ô shod-î
yâr-é khwod bîn-î negâr-é har negâr
When, together with Love, you have passed on from "this and
that," put on the clothing of Its Qualities in the (same) manner as
the (Divine) Essence.
When you have again become the same "color and scent" as It,
(then) look upon your own Beloved-- the (lovely) sweetheart of
Here, Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh has quoted from lines which appear
earlier in the original ghazal, but since he is quoting these lines
later, he has to give a more lofty spiritual interpretation.
Furthermore, his commentary seem to have little to do with
Mawlânâ's verses, in which the words "east and west" are first
mentioned-- which he interpreted afterwardsto mean: "What are
east and west in (the midst) of the placeless? (Merely) a dark bath
furnace and a bath (ready) to be used."
11579 rôz raft-o qiSSa-am kôtah na-shod
ay shab-o rôz az HadîS-ash sharm-sâr
11580 Shâh Shamsuddîn-é Tabrîzî ma-râ
mast mê-dâr-ad, khumâr andar khumâr
The day has gone and my story has not been short. O night and
day, (be) ashamed (to compare yourself with the length) of the
story about him!
King Shamsu 'd-dîn of Tabrîz keeps me drunk with all the effects
of being intoxicated.
(Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh:)
sayyid-é mulk-é wudûd-am lâ-jaram
ân-che penhân bûd kard-am âshkâr
Without doubt, I am the chief of the kingdom of existence. I have
revealed that which was hidden.
This does not appear to be an interpretation of Mawlânâ's final
lines (for claiming to be the chief [sayyid] of the kingdom of
existence would not be compatible with the mention of Shamsu
'd-dîn Tabrîzî as his king). Rather, Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh seems to be
referring to his own high rank of spiritual enlightenment, and how
he has revealed the hidden secrets of Mawlânâ's ghazal.
1Translation, transliteration, and commentary: I am grateful for
the previous translation of this ghazal by A. J. Arberry ("Mystical
Poems of Rumi," 1968, pp. 116-17) which served as an excellent
guide to the meaning of the words. And I wish also to express my
gratitude to Dr. Rawân Farhâdî for suggesting that I translate this
particular poem from Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's "Kulliyât-é Ash`âr," for
sending me a photocopy of it., and for helpful suggestions and
2(11564) (beautiful) idol [negâr]: lit., "picture," "image." An
idiom meaning "a beautiful beloved," which in sufi poetry means
the spiritual master, whose image is frequently visualized in the
heart of the disciple.
3(11566) a prostration (of obeisance) [sujûd]: a type of
prostration made to kings, as well as to sufi masters ("dervish
kings"), which symbolized submission-- but which were
understood to be different from the prostration of worship done
only to God.
4(11566: Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's commentary) the "No" of denial (of
other gods) [lâ-yé nâfiyah] refers to the Islamic testament of faith,
"There is no divinity except (the One) God" [lâ ilâha illâ 'llâh]. The
first part ("There is no divinity") involves denial [nâfiyah] and the
second part ("except God") involves affirmation [iSbât].
5(11566: Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's commentary) Friend of the Cave
[yâr-é ghâr]: refers to Abû Bakr, the companion of the Prophet
Muhammad who shared a cave with him when enemies were
searching everywhere in order to kill the Prophet.
6(11567: Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's commentary) without the (self-)
existence [bê-hastî]: refers to the sufi teaching that God cannot be
known unless the ordinary ego-driven self [nafs] disappears
through the mystical experience of "passing away" and
7(11568) (the sword of) Zû 'l-Faqâr: refers to a famous sword
owned by `Alî (given to him by the Prophet Muhammad -- also his
cousin and father-in-law) who was famous for his manliness and
8(11569: Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's commentary) spiritual insight
[ma`rifat]: a technical term in sufism, meaning knowledge gained
directly in a spiritual state of consciousness transcending the
ordinary intellect or mind.
9(11574) (bath) basin [tâsa]: an alternative spelling of "tâs," both
of which are Persian spellings of the Arabic word for "basin"
[Tâs]. Mawlânâ does not used the word "tâs" as an alternative
spelling for "Tâs" in the Masnavî, but uses "tâsa" to mean
discomfort, disqietude, distress. Here, the meaning must be "bath
basin" in the context of bath imagery.
10(11573: Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's commentary) If you aren't frozen,
get up fervently: a word-play between the word "frozen" [forsorda]
and "fervent"-- literally, "warm" [garm].
11(11574) Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's commentary): (bath) basin [Tâs]:
this word also is spelled "tâs" in a Persianized form.
12(11578) earth and water [khâk-o âb]: an idiom meaning the
human body, made from "water and clay" (see Qur'an 49:18;
13(11575: Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh's commentary) beyond the curtains
[of illusion] without a veil: a word play between the word "veil"
[Hijâb] and the plural form, "curtains" or "veils" [Hujub].
14(11576): this line is absent from Shah Ni`matullâh's text, and
therefore he made no commentary on it. It is also possible that he
omitted it in order to reduce Mawlânâ's ghazal to 16 lines, rather
than an odd number of 17 lines, in order to add his own two-verse
commentaries following two of Mawlânâ's verses.
15(11572) a dark bath furnace [golkhanê târîk]: see the
comparison of the world to a bath furnace [gôl-khan] in Masnavî
16(11576): this line is absent from Shah Ni`matullâh's text, and
therefore he made no commentary on it.
17(11577) the six directions: means north, south, east, west, up,
and down. Means the dimensions of the material world and the
18(11571) kept rising [mê-war-shod]: an archaic form of the verb
Differences in the text of "Kulliyât-é Ash`âr-é Shâh Ni`matu 'llâh
Valî" as compared to Forûzânfar's text:
11564: . . . goft az-în daryâ
11565: bâz ân jârôb dar âtash be-sôkht/ goft az-în âtash. . .
11566: sujûdê khwash bar-âr
11567: bê-châr-châr. The editor (Javâd Nurbakhsh) also lists the
11568: gardan-am-râ. . . bâ Zû 'l-faqâr
11569: identical texts
11573: kû Tâs-é del-at. . . z-în qarâr
11574: golkhan be-mân . . . jâma bar-kan be-n'gar ân
11565: naqsh-hây-é bê-Hisâb.
11578: âb-o khâk az nûr-é ô rôshan shoda. . . jân be-tâzîda ba-tork
11572: identical texts
11576: this line is absent from Shah Ni`matullâh's text.
11577: bar sar az rawzan
11570: man cherâgh-é har sar-am. . . jumla-râ andar gerefta
11571: sham`-hây-é sar shoda sar-hây-é mâ/ sharq-o maghrib-râ
gerefta dar qiTâr
11579: shab goZasht-o qiSSa-am. . . az HadîS-at
11580: shâh shamsu 'd-dîn-é tabrîzî ke man/ mast-am az Hâl-ash
ba-qâl-ash dar khumâr
The editor (Javâd Nûrbakhsh) lists the variant: shâh shamsu
'd-dîn-é tabrîzî ma-râ/ mast mê-dâr-ad ze-jâm-é bê-khumâr