How Jesus Fled From Fools

Mathnawi III: 2570-2599

The escaping of Jesus, (may the) peace (of God) be upon him,
to the top of a mountain (to flee) from fools.

2570 Jesus, (the son) of Mary, was running away to a mountain.
You might say (that) a lion was wanting to spill his blood.

Someone ran behind (him) and said, "(May you be) well! There
isn't anyone following you, (so) why are you fleeing like a bird?"

(But) he kept running in the same manner, bound to urgency, (so)
that he didn't answer him, because of his own haste.

(The man) pressed forward following Jesus (for) one or two
(more) fields. Then he called (out) to Jesus with great seriousness,

Saying, "For the sake of God's approval, stop for a moment! --
since I have a problem in (understanding this) fleeing of yours.

2575 "O noble and generous one! Who are you running from (in)
this direction? (There's) no lion or enemy following you, and no
fear or dread."

He answered, "I am escaping from a fool. Go (away)! I'm
rescuing myself, (so) don't restrain me!"

(The man) said, "But aren't you the Messiah,1 by whom blind
and deaf (people) become normal?"

"Yes," he replied. (The man) asked, "Aren't you the (spiritual)
king who (is) the dwelling place for mysterious spells and
incantations?2 --

"(So that) if you recite a spell upon a (man's) corpse, he leaps up
(joyfully) like a lion (who has) brought back prey."

2580 "Yes," he answered, "I am that one." (The other) said, "O
beautiful faced one! Don't you make (living) birds out of clay?"3

"Yes," he replied. (The other) said, "O pure spirit! Then you can
make (happen) whatever you wish-- (so) who are you afraid of?

"With evidence such as this,4 who is there in the world who
wouldn't be among your (devoted) slaves?"

Jesus said, "By the Holy Essence of God, the Originator of the
body, the Creator of the soul in (its) superiority!5

"(And in) reverence for His Holy Essence and Attributes, (for)
whom the collar of the heavens is torn (in ecstasy)6:

2585 "(I affirm) that those incantations, as well as the greatest
Name (of God),7 which I spoke over the deaf and over the blind,
were beneficial.

"I recited (the words) over the rocky mountain (and) it became
split, tearing the robe (which was) upon itself (down) to the navel.

"I spoke (the words) over a dead body (and) it became alive. I said
(them) over a point of nothingness (and) it became something.

"(But) I said those (words) a hundred thousand times with
loving-kindness over the heart of a fool and it was not a cure.8

"(Instead), it became9 a hard rock and didn't change from that
habit; it became sand, from which no seed grows."

2590 (The man) said, "(Then) what is the wisdom that the Name of
God was beneficial in those places, (but) here it had no

"That is also (a case) of disease, and this is an affliction. (So) why
was it11 a cure for that (but) not for this?"

(Jesus) replied, "The affliction of foolish stupidity is (caused by)
the overwhelming anger of God. (Normal) afflictions and
blindness are not (from God's) anger-- those are tests and trials."

Trials and hardships are an affliction which [eventually] brings
(Divine) Mercy. (But) ignorant foolishness brings blows and

That which is his scarring has been produced by His seal,12
(and) no supporting hand can bring a remedy to it.

2595 (Therefore), escape from foolish people just as Jesus escaped.
(For) companionship with fools has spilled so much blood!

The air steals water very gradually,13 (and) the fool steals
religion from you also in the same way.

He steals your warmth and gives you cold (in its place), just like
one who puts a rock under (your) bottom.

The escaping of Jesus is not because of (real) fear, (for) he is
secure (from such). (But) is for the sake of teaching (a lesson).14

2599 Even if intense cold filled (all) the horizons of the world,
what grief would there be for the radiant sun?

--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 1930 British translation)
Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (, 8/17/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (2577) the Messiah: "(And) when the angels said, 'O Mary! Truly
God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name will
be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, [al-masîHu `îsà ibnu
maryam] worthy of honor in this world and the Hereafter and
among those (who are) nearest to God." (Qur'an 3:45)

2. (2578) mysterious spells and incantations: Nicholson translated,
"in whom the spells of the Unseen World have their abode."

3. (2580) (living) birds out of clay: a reference to a verse in the
Qur'an where Jesus was sent as a prophet of God to the Children of
Israel with the message: "Surely, I have come to you with a
(miraculous) sign from your Lord. I will make for you (something)
resembling the shape of a bird and I will breathe into it so that it
will become a (living) bird, by the permission of God. And I will
heal the blind and the lepers, and I make the dead alive, by the
permission of God." (Qur'an 3:49)

4. (2582) With evidence such as this: Nicholson translated, "With
such (miraculous) evidence..."

5. (2583) the soul in (its) superiority: Nicholson translated, "the
Creator of the soul in eternity," and explained, "Literally, 'in
priority.'" (footnote) This refers to the teaching in the Qur'an that
God created Adam as superior to the angels, which they were
commanded to acknowledge (2: 31-34).

6. (2584) (for) whom the collar of the heavens is torn (in ecstasy):
refers to the ancient practice of "rending one's garments" during a
state of extreme devotion. In Islamic culture, public nudity is
forbidden. However, dervishes used to tear their shirts or robes
from the collar to the waist, while in a state of spiritual ecstasy,
such as during a samâ`, or mystical concert, when spontaneous
movement (and sometimes dancing and whirling) occurred while
hearing mystical poetry and music.

7. (2585) the greatest Name (of God) [ism-é a`Zam]: Nicholson
translated, "the Most Great Name." Although the name "Allah" is
considered to be the greatest Name of God, because it contains all
of the traditional Ninety-Nine (and the infinite) Names of God, it
probably refers here to the sufi teaching that God allows a few of
His chosen servants to know His greatest (and most secret) Name--
by which he allows them to perform miracles [mu`jizât] (if they
are prophets, such as Jesus) and wonders [karâmât] (if they are
saints). In a similar story, Rumi tells about a fool who asked Jesus
to teach him "that sublime Name [nâm-é sanî] by which you make
a dead man alive" (II:142). The man wanted to revive some bones
he saw in a hole. After receiving clarification from God, Jesus
pronounced the Name over the bones, a lion sprung to life and
killed the fool. Nicholson explained the meaning of "that sublime
Name" as referring to "the Greatest name of God (ismu 'lláhi
'l-a`zamu), generally said to be Allah, wherein Huwa [= He,
meaning the Divine Essence] is contained. Knowledge of the name
confers miraculous powers on those who possess it, viz. prophets
and heads of the hierarchy of saints, and can be communicated" [=
to selected others]. (Commentary)

8. (2588) it wasn't a cure: "One of the sayings which Moslems
attribute to Jesus is má `ajaztu `an ihyá'i 'l-mawtá kamá `ajaztu `an
isláhi 'l-ahmaq." [= As much as I worked miracles in regard to
reviving the dead, even so, I was helpless in regard to mending the
fool.] (Nicholson, Commentary)

9. (2589) It became: refers to the heart, mentioned in the previous
line. Nicholson translated, "He became..."

10. (2590) here it had no superiority: Nicholson translated, "(while) it
had no advantage (good effect) here?" And he explained: "I.e. 'in
the case of the fool.'" (footnote)

11. (2591) why was it: Nicholson translated, "why did it (the Name of

12. (2594) his scarring has been produced by His seal: Means that his
punishment has been sealed or stamped upon him by the Decree of
God. "Of course Rúmí does not imply that because the fool acts
according to his predestined folly he is therefore excusable."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

13. (2596) The air steals water very gradually: means through

14. (2598) for the sake of teaching (a lesson): "...the prophet or saint,
though 'united' with God and endowed with Divine knowledge,
nevertheless turns to God in solitary prayer and supplication
(khalwat ú namáz). It is in order that his example in this respect
may be followed by those who seek salvation under his guidance."
(Nicholson, Commentary)


gorêkhtan-é `îsà-- `alay-hi 's-salâm-- farâz-é kûh az aHmaq-ân

2570 `îsà-yé maryam ba-kôhê mê-gorêkht
shêr gôy-î khûn-é ô mê-khwâst rêkht

ân yakê dar pay dawîd-o goft khayr
dar pay-at kas nêst che gorêz-î chô Tayr?

bâ shetâb ô ân-chon-ân mê-tâkht joft
k-az shetâb-é khwad jawâb-é ô na-goft

yak dô maydân dar pay-é `îsà be-rând
pas ba-jidd-é jidd `îsà-râ be-khwând

k-az pay-é marZât-é Haq yak laHZa b-êst
ke ma-ra andar gorêz-at mushkilê-st

2575 az ke în sô mê-gorêz-î ay karîm
na pay-at shêr-o na khaSm-o khawf-o bîm

goft az aHmaq gorêzân-am, be-raw
mê-rahân-am khwêsh-râ band-am ma-shaw

goft âkhir ân masîHâ na tow-î
ke shaw-ad kûr-o kar az tô mustawî?

goft ârî, goft ân shah nêst-î
ke fusûn-é ghayb-râ ma'wîst-î?

chûn be-khwân-î ân fusûn bar morda'yê
bar jah-ad chûn shêr-é Sayd-âwarda'yê

2580 goft ârî, ân man-am, goft-â ke tô
na ze-gel morgh-ân kon-î ay khwob-rô

goft ârî, goft pas ay rûH-é pâk
har-che khwâh-î mê-kon-î, az kî-st bâk?

bâ chon-în burhân ke bâsh-ad dar jahân
ke na-bâsh-ad mar to-râ az bandag-ân?

goft `îsà ke ba-Zât-é pâk-é Haq
mubdi`-é tan, khâliq-é jân dar sabaq

Hurmat-é Zât-o Sifât-é pâk-é ô
ke bow-ad gardûn garîbân châk-é ô

2585 k-ân fusûn-o ism-é a`Zam-râ ke man
bar kar-o bar kûr khwând-am shod Hasan

bar koh-é sangîn be-khwând-am shod shekâf
khirqa-râ be-drîd bar khwad tâ ba-nâf

bar tan-é morda be-khwând-am gasht Hay
bar sar-é lâ-shay be-khwând-am gasht shay

khwând-am ân-râ bar del-é aHmaq ba-wud
Sad hazâr-ân bâr-o darmânê na-shod

sang-é khârâ gasht-o z-ân khô bar na-gasht
rêg shod k-az way na-rôy-ad hêch kasht

2590 goft Hikmat chî-st, k-ân-jâ ism-é Haq,
sûd kard, în-jâ na-bûd ân-râ sabaq?

ân ham-ân ranj-ast-o în ranjê, che-râ
ô na-shod în-râ-wo ân-râ shod dawâ

goft ranj-é aHmaqî qahr-é khodâ-st
ranj-o kûrî nêst qahr, ân ibtilâ-st

ibtilâ ranjê-st k-ân raHm âwar-ad
aHmaqî ranjê-st k-ân zakhm âwar-ad

ân-che dâgh-é ô-st mohr-é ô karda-ast
châra'yê bar way na-y-ar-ad bord-dast

2595 z-aHmaq-ân be-g'rêz chûn `îsà gorêkht
SuHbat-é aHmaq basê khûn-hâ ke rêkht

andak andak âb-râ dozd-ad hawâ
dîn chon-în dozd-ad ham aHmaq az shomâ

garmiy-at-râ dozd-ad-o sardî deh-ad
ham-chô ân k-ô zêr-é kûn sangê neh-ad

ân gorêz-é `îsà na az bîm bow-ad
âmin-ast ô, ân pay-é ta`lîm bow-ad

2599 zamharîr ar por kon-ad âfâq-râ
che gham ân khworshêd-é bâ-ishrâq-râ?

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)