Deliberate Slowness is from God

Mathnawi III: 3494-3516

3494 A certain friend spoke to the Prophet (Muhammad), saying,
"In (doing) business, I'm liable to be deceived.1

3495 "(Because) the tricks of everyone who sells or buys are like
(the spells of) magic, and take me (away) from the road."

(The Prophet) replied, "When you are afraid of being deceived in
(doing) business, set a condition of (asking) three days for
(making) your own choice.

"Since deliberate slowness is from the Most Merciful,2 (but) your
being hasty is from Satan, the cursed one."

If you toss a mouthful (of food) in front of a dog, he smells (first
and) then he eats (it), O deliberate one!

He smells with the nose, (and) we (who are) with wisdom also
smell it3 by (means of) the discriminating intellect.

3500 The earth and the wheeling heavens4 came into being by [the
command of] God with deliberate slowness (lasting) up to six

And if not, He was (certainly) able to bring forth a hundred6
earths and circling heavens, since for Him (it is only to say) "Be
(and) it is."7

That Generous King makes a human being a complete man by
small degrees, until his fortieth year--8

Although He was (certainly) able to make fifty people fly (into
being) from non-existence in a single moment.

Jesus was able9 to make a dead person jump up without a pause
by means of a single prayer--

3505 (So) is the Creator of Jesus10 unable to bring men (into
existence) step by step11 without delay?

This [explanation about] deliberate slowness is for your
instruction: that it is necessary to seek12 slowly without

A tiny stream (of water) which continually goes (forward) does
not become filthy, nor does it become putrid.

Good fortune and joy are born from this deliberate slowness:
being slow is the egg (and) good fortune (is) like the birds.

Birds never resemble the egg, O stubborn one, even though they
keep appearing out of eggs.

3510 Wait until your (bodily) parts13 hatch birds, like eggs, in the
end (at the Resurrection)!

Although the snake's egg resembles a sparrow's egg in similarity,
the way (to go) is far distant.14

Likewise, although the pear seed15 resembles an apple seed, know
the differences, O dear sir!

Leaves are the same color to the sight, (but) fruits are a different
kind-- each one.

The "leaves" of (human) bodies are alike, but each soul is living
with a particular income (from its produce).16

3515 The people in the market are going (about in) the same
manner, (but) that one (is) in (a state of) delight and other (ones)
are in (a state of) groaning [from regret].

3516 Similarly, in death, we are going on (in) the same manner,
(but) half (of us) are suffering loss and (another) half are (like)

--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" (, 4/13/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (3494) liable to be deceived: refers to the preceding line (3493),
where Rumi says that if one does not know the difference between
the fire of anger and the (true) light of religion, "say, 'No
deception!' And don't hurry and don't urge (yourself) forward."
This line refers to the account of "the advice given by the Prophet
to a man who said that he seldom bought or sold without being
cheated: idhhá báya`ta fa-qul lá khilábah" [= "If you do business,
say, 'No deception!'"] (Nicholson, Commentary)

2. (3497) deliberate slowness is from the Most Merciful: "A
translation of the Hadíth [= saying of the Prophet]: al-ta'anní mina
'l-Rahmán wa-'l-`ajalatu mina 'l-shaytán" [= "Deliberate slowness
is from the Most Merciful, and haste is from Satan"]. (Nicholson,

3. (3499) smell it: Nicholson translated, "He smells with the nose, we
too (who are endowed) with wisdom smell it (the object submitted
to us) with the purified intelligence."

4. (3500) the wheeling heavens [charkh-hâ]: means the planetary
spheres, viewed as governing the seven heavens, from lowest to
highest (according to ancient tradition): Moon, Mercury, Venus,
Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. The Persian word "charkh" is related to
the Sanscrit word for wheel, "chakra."

5. (3500) up to six days: refers to the verse, "Truly, your Sustaining
Lord is God, who created the heavens and the earth in six days..."
(Qur'an 7:54) These are not "days" in a literal sense, since, "In the
presence of your Sustaining Lord, a day is like a thousand years of
your reckoning" (22:47), or, "... a day the length of which is (like)
fifty-thousand years" (70:4). And these numbers are to be taken
literally either, since they are metaphors in Arabic for vast amounts
and huge quantities. Many kinds of sciences flourished in Islam
because of minimal conflict between scientists and religious

6. (3501) a hundred: another metaphor for a vast amount.

7. (3501) "Be (and) it is: refers to the verse, "He is the Originator of
the heavens and the earth, and when He commands something (to
exist), He says to it, 'Be!' and it is." (Qur'an 2:117)

8. (3502) until his fortieth year: refers to the verse, "And We have
commanded man to (act with) goodness toward his parents, (for)
his mother carried him with difficulty (during pregnancy) and she
gave birth to him in pain. And the (period of) carrying him until his
weaning is thirty months-- until, when he reaches full strength and
attains forty years..." (Qur'an 46:15)

9. (3504) Jesus was able: "(That is) when God will say [on the Day of
Judgment], 'O Jesus, son of Mary, recall My favors to you and to
your mother.... And when you brought forth the dead (to life) by
My permission...'" (Qur'an 5: 113)

10. (3505) the Creator of Jesus: this expresses the Qur'anic teaching
that Jesus was a Prophet of God and therefore a created being, and
that Christians are wrong to believe that "God is Christ the son of
Mary" (Qur'an 5:19). Per the meter in this line, Nicholson states
that it is a rare instance in the Mathnawi in which a long vowel is
allowed to be shortened before a consonant (referring to the second
long vowel in the Arabic name for Jesus, "îsà").

11. (3505) step by step: Nicholson translated, "in manifold succession
(into existence)."

12. (3506) to seek: Nicholson translated, "you must seek (God)."

13. (3510) your (bodily) parts: a reference to the Resurrection of the
Dead on the Day of Judgment, when inanimate objects will testify
to God about the actions of mankind: "and their hands will speak
to Us, and their feet will bear witness to whatever they did"
(Qur'an 36:65).

14. (3511) far distant: "this passage illustrates further the essential
difference of things which superficially resemble each other, e.g.
the a`málu 'l-jawárih [= the actions of the limbs] of the sincere
believer and the religious hypocrite." (Nicholson, Commentary)

15. (3512) pear seed: refers to the small yellow fruit called a quince,
although the word is also used for pears.

16. (3514) a particular income (from its produce) [ray`ê]: this word
refers to the income which results from growing crops. Nicholson
explained the meaning of this line: "i.e. the life of every soul
consists in the particular spiritual result which it produces."

17. (3516) (like) kings: literally, like King Khosraw, a legendary king
of Persia. This Persian name is a word-play on the Arabic word for
"suffering loss" [khusrân]. The meaning of this line is that souls
will be punished or rewarded for their choices and actions during
life on the Day of Judgment.


3494 ân yakê yârê payambar-râ be-goft
ke man-am dar bay`-hâ bâ-ghabn joft

3495 makr-é har kas k-ô forôsh-ad yâ khar-ad
hamchô siHr-ast-o ze- râh-am mê-bar-ad

goft dar bay`ê ke tars-î az ghirâr
sharT kon seh rôz khwad-râ ikhtiyâr

ke ta'annî hast az raHmân yaqîn
hast ta`jîlat ze-shayTân-é la`în

pêsh-é sag chûn luqma-yé nân afkan-î
bô kon-ad, ân-gah khwar-ad ay mu`tanî

ô ba-bînî bô kon-ad mâ bâ-kherad
ham be-bôy-êm-ash ba-`aql-é muntaqad

3500 bâ ta'annî gasht mawjûd az khodâ
tâ ba-shash rôz în zamîn-o charkh-hâ

w-ar-na qâdir bûd k-ô kun fa-yakûn
Sad zamîn-o charkh âward-y berûn

âdamê-râ andak andak ân humâm
tâ chehel sâl-ash kon-ad mard-é tamâm

gar-che qâdir bûd k-andar yak-nafas
az `adam parrân kon-ad panjâh kas

`îsà qâdir bûd k-ô az yak du`â
bê-tawaqquf bar jehân-ad morda-râ

3505 khâliq-é `îsà be-na-t'wân-ad ke ô
bê-tawaqquf mardom âr-ad tô ba-tô?

în ta'annî az pay-é ta`lîm-é to-st
ke Talab âhasta bây-ad bê-sokost

jôy-akê kôchak ke dâyim mê-raw-ad
na najis gard-ad, na ganda mê-shaw-ad

z-în ta'annî zây-ad iqbâl-o surûr
în ta'annî bayZa, dawlat chûn Tuyûr

morgh kay mân-ad ba-baZa ay `anîd?
gar-che az bayZa hamê ây-ad padîd

3510 bâsh tâ ajzây-é tô chûn bayZa-hâ
morgh-hâ zây-and andar intihâ

bayZa-yé mâr ar-che mân-ad dar shabah
bayZa-yé gonjeshg-râ, dûr-ast rah

dâna-yé âbî ba-dâna-yé sêb nêz
gar-che mân-ad, farq-hâ dân ay `azîz

barg-hâ ham-rang bâsh-ad dar naZar
mêwa-hâ har yak bow-ad naw`ê degar

barg-hây-é jism-hâ mânanda-and
lêk har jânê ba-ray`ê zenda-and

3515 khalq dar bâzâr yak-sân mê-raw-and
ân yakê dar Zawq-o dêgar dar dam-and

3516 ham-chon-ân dar marg yak-sân mê-raw-êm
nîm dar khusrân-o nîmê khosraw-êm

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)