There is No Dervish in the World

Mathnawi III: 3669-3685

The question of the (mystical) annihilation and persistence1 of
the dervish:

3669 The speaker2 said, "There is no dervish3 in the world, and if
there is (one), that dervish (is) non-existent."

3670 He exists4 because of the persistence of his essence, (but) his
qualities have become non-existent in His Qualities.

He is existent in (terms of being) countable, (but) he is (really)
non-existent like a candle flame in the presence of the sun.

It's essence is existent-- so if you put cotton on (it), it will be
burned (up) by the sparks--

(But) it is (really) non-existent (since) it doesn't give you any
light, (for) the sun will have made it reduced to nothing.

If you toss one ounce of vinegar into two hundred heaps of sugar,
and it has become dissolved in it,

3675 The flavor of the vinegar is (really) non-existent if you take a
taste, (although) if you draw it up (on the scales) the ounce exists
(as an) increase.

A deer becomes insensible in the [overwhelming] presence of a
lion; its existence becomes (nothing more than) a face-veil for his

These comparisons, (made) by those (who are) deficient (in
knowledge) about the workings of the Lord, are (like) the surging
of (feelings of) love, (which) are not from neglecting courtesy and

(It is like when) the lover's pulse (of desire) jumps up, and
lacking respect, he puts himself on the (same) level6 of the king
(on the scale).

There is no person in the world (who is) more disrespectful than
he, (and yet) there is no person in secret (who is) more respectful
than he.

3680 (But) O chosen one, know also (that) these two contraries of
respectful and disrespectful (are) harmonious (by their) relation.

(The lover) is rude (only) if you look outwardly, since his claim
of love is (one of) equality.

(Yet) if you look inwardly, where is the claim?-- (since) both he
and the claim are annihilated in the presence of that Sultan.

If "Zayd" is the active agent (in the sentence), "Zayd died,"--
still, he is not the agent (in reality) because he is devoid (of

He is (only) the agent in regard to the grammatical phrase, and if
not, (then) he is the passive object and Death is his executioner.

3685 What (is he) an agent of?7 For he has become so conquered8
(that) the qualities of being an agent have become far (distant)
from him.

--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" (, 1/19/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (3669) (mystical) annihilation and persistence: means, mystical
"death" and "abidance." These terms ("fanâ" and "baqâ") derive
from the sufi interpretation of a verse in the Qur'an: "All that is
upon (the earth) will pass away [fân-in], but the Face of your Lord
will abide [yabqà], full of Majesty and Glory" (55:26-27).

2. (3669) The speaker: "an eminent mystic." (Nicholson,

3. (3669) There is no dervish: "i.e. the perfect faqîr, who is free from
all connexion with the phenomenal world" (Nicholson,
Commentary). The Persian word "darwêsh" (literally, "poor one")
was a translation of the Arabic word for a sufi, "faqîr," which
derives from the verse, "O men, you are poor [fuqarâ] in relation to
God, and God is the Rich (al-Ghanî), the Praiseworthy" (Qur'an
35:15). So, in this respect, the true dervish does not exist because
he is "poor in existence" in the presence of God, and this advanced
degree of "spiritual poverty" [faqr] means that he is annihilated of

4. (3669) He exists: "i.e. he exists formally and externally in so far as
his 'person' (dhát-i bashariyyah) [="human essence"] is concerned;
but... he is really non-existent as an individual agent and only
'persists' in virtue of the Divine life and energy which constitute his
whole being. Cf. v. 3914 infra: wasf-i ú fání shud ú dhát-ash baqá"
[= "His (the lover's) attributes have passed away, and his essence
remains"]. (Nicholson, Commentary)

5. (3669) from neglecting courtesy and respect: "See the Story of
Moses and the Shepherd (II 1720 sqq.)..." (Nicholson,
Commentary) In this story, Moses overhears a simple-minded
shepherd praising God with an over-familiarity which he
condemns as blasphemous. Moses then hears the voice of God,
which rebukes him for being so harsh toward one of His most
ardent and saintly lovers.

6. (3669) on the (same) level: puts himself on the other tray of the
scale, or balance, so that he of equal measure (as the king). A
metaphor of becoming overly-familiar with a superior.

7. (3669) What (is he) an agent of?: Nicholson later changed his
translation, to "What (power of) action (remains in him)?" (from,
"What agent (is he)...?).

8. (3669) he has become so conquered: "When the lover of God has
died to self, all his actions proceed immediately from God, the
only Real Agent." (Nicholson, Commentary)


mas'ala-yé fanâ wa baqây-é darwêsh

3669 goft qâyîl dar jahân darwêsh nêst
w-ar bow-ad darwêsh, ân darwêsh nêst

3670 hast az rôy-é baqây-é Zât-é ô
nêst gashta waSf-é ô dar waSf-é hû

chûn zobâna-yé sham` pêsh-é âftâb
nêst bâsh-ad, hast bâsh-ad, dar Hisâb

hast bâsh-ad Zât-é ô, tâ tô agar
bar neh-î panba be-sôz-ad z-ân sharar

nêst bâsh-ad, rôshanê na-d'h-ad to-râ
karda bâsh-ad âftâb ô-râ fanâ

dar dô Sad man shahd yak awqiyyah khal
chôn dar afkand-î-wo dar way gasht Hal

3675 nêst bâsh-ad Ta`m-é khal chûn mê-chash-î
hast awqiyyah fazûn chûn bar kash-î

pêsh-é shêrê âhû'ê bê-hôsh shod
hastî-ash dar hast-ê ô rô-pôsh shod

în qiyâs-é nâqiS-ân bar kâr-é rab
jôshesh-é `ishq-ast na az tark-é adab

nabZ-é `âshiq bê-adab bar mê-jah-ad
khwêsh-râ dar kaffa-yé shah mê-neh-ad

bê-adab-tar nêst kas z-ô dar jahân
bâ-adab-tar nêst kas z-ô dar nehân

3680 ham ba-nisbat dân wifâq ay muntajab
în dô Zidd-é bâ-adab yâ bê-adab

bê-adab bâsh-ad chô Zâhir be-n'gar-î
ke bow-ad da`wî-é `ishq-ash ham-sarî

chûn ba-bâTin be-n'gar-î da`wê ko-jâ-st?
ô-wo da`wî pêsh-é ân sulTân fanâ-st

mâta zayd-un, zayd agar fâ'`il bow-ad
lêk fâ'`il nêst, k-o `âTil bow-ad

ô ze-rôy-é lafZ-é naHwî fâ`il-ast
w-ar-na ô maf`ûl-o mawt-ash qâtil-ast

3685 fâ'`il-é che? k-ô chon-ân maqhûr shod
fâ'`ilî-hâ jomla az way dûr shod

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)