The Prime Minister of the King of Bukhara (part one)

Mathnawi III: 3686-3699

The story of the king's prime minister who became suspect,
and (who) escaped from Bukhara out of fear for (his) life.
Then love drew him (back) without resistance. For the matter
of (sacrificing) life is easy for lovers.

3686 In Bukhara, the servant of the king1 became suspect,
(and so) he became concealed from his king.

He wandered for a period of ten years, sometimes in
Khorasan, sometimes in the mountains, (and) sometimes in the

(But) after ten years, due to yearning (love),3 he
became powerless (to endure any longer) the days of

He said, "After this, the power (to endure) separation
no longer remains to me. Patience can never und
erstand (how) to settle an unruly life."4

3690 Because of separation, these (tracts of) earth become
unfertile; water becomes yellow, bad-smelling, and murky;5

The life-increasing (breezy) air becomes unhealthy6 and
infected with plague; and fire changes to ashes7 and
particles of fine dust.

The Paradise-like garden becomes the dwelling place of
sickness;8 in (such a state of) weakness, its leaves become
yellowed and scattered (on the ground).

Because of separation from (beloved) friends, the
intelligent mind (becomes) like an archer with a broken bow.

Hell has been burning so (much) because of separation.
And the elderly man has been trembling so (much) due to

3695 Even if I speak until the (Day of) Resurrection about
separation, which resembles sparks of fire, it would be
(merely) one (part) of a hundred thousand.

(And) so, don't breathe (a word) in explanation of its
burning. Say no more than, "Lord protect (me)! Lord protect

Anything by which you become happy in (this) world--
(in) the moment (of enjoyment), think about the (eventual)
separation from it.

Many a person (before you) has been happy because of
what you've been happy (with). Finally, it leaped away from
him and became as (invisible as) the wind.

3699 It will jump away from you as well, (so) don't set your
heart on it. Before (the moment) that it jumps away,10 you
should leap away from it.

--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" (, 2/22/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (3686) the servant of the king: the servant was the
prime minister [wakîl]-- "a high official who 'managed the
domestic affairs of the Court'" (Nicholson, Commentary). As
for the king, he is called here by his title, literally,
"the Chief of the World" [Sadr-é jahân]. Nicholson
explained: "It is likely that this Story has some historical
foundation, though the commentators give no details. For
sadr-i jahán, a title bestowed on the rulers of Bukhárá
belonging to the princely family of Burhán in the 12th and
13th centuries A.D....." (Commentary)

2. (3686) became suspect, (and so) he became concealed from
his king: "The king of Bukhara had a slave who was his close
friend and companion. It happened one day that an accusation
was made against him and he became suspect. Then that close
slave became hidden his king because of fear of his life and
from fear of the king's anger. The meaning is: he fled from
his own beloved and became concealed." (Translated here from
a Persian translation of Anqaravi's famous 17th century
commentary on the Mathnawi) It was not uncommon for a king
to elevate his favorite (and most faithful) slaves to
positions of great power and wealth. In this story, the
slave (elevated to the position of prime minister)
symbolizes the slave of God [a phrase that means a true
muslim, who surrenders faithfully to the Divine Will] in
separation from his Lord. The slave also symbolizes the
yearning lover who yearns to be reunited with the beloved,
symbolized by the king (who in turn is a symbol of God, the
King of all the worlds).

3. (3687) sometimes in the mountains, (and) sometimes in
the desert: "may refer to Kuhistán-i Khurásán [= the
mountainous area of Khurasan] (south of Níshápúr) and 'the
great salt desert of the central Iranian plateau' by which
it is surrounded." (Nicholson, Commentary)

4. (3688) due to yearning (love): "...from his total
yearning and from intensity of the pain of separation, and
from the burning of the fire of separation." (Anqaravi,

5. (3689) Patience can never understand (how) to settle an
unruly life: Nicholson translated, "how can patience allay
(the lover's) state of abandonment?" "It means, quieting and
stilling the unruly state of love." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

6. (3690) water becomes yellow, bad-smelling, and murky:
"If any water becomes separated from the flowing water which
had been its source and it remains in (the form of) a
pool..." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

7. (3691) becomes unhealthy: "The meaning is that it became
stinking... if it becomes separated from a wind which was
its source and it becomes trapped in a foul-smelling place."
"A fire, if it becomes separated from that fire which was
its helper and friend, it becomes changed into ashes..."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

8. (3692) the dwelling place of sickness: "the garden which
resembles Paradise becomes turned into a house of illnesses
because of separation from the spring (season)." (Anqaravi,

9. (3692) its leaves become yellowed and scattered (on the
ground).: "This is a metaphor for fading, annihilation, and
not-being." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

10. (3694) due to separation: "Hell is separated from Divine
Mercy; old age from bodily strength." (Nicholson,

(3699) Nicholson translated, "Do you yourself escape
from it before it escapes (from you)." "... and become free,
so that you won't become tied to it and suffer affliction,
and so that in the time of separation you won't be faced
with pain and agitation, and crying and wailing." (Anqaravi,


qiSSa-yé wakîl-é Sadr-é jahân ke muttaham shod
wa az bukhârâ gorêkht az bîm-é jân, bâz `ishq-ash
kashîd rô-kashân ke kâr-é jân sahl bâsh-ad `âshiq-ân-râ

3686 dar bukârâ banda-yé Sadr-é jahân
muttahim shod, gasht az Sadr-ash nehân

muddat-é dah sâl sar-gardân be-gasht
gah khorâsân, gah kohestân, gâh dasht

az pas-é dah sâl ô az ishtiyâq
gasht bê-Tâqat ze-ayyâm-é firâq

goft tâb-é furqat-am z-în pas na-mând
Sabr kay dân-ad khalâ`at-râ neshând?

3690 az firâq în khâk-hâ shôra bow-ad
âb zard-o ganda-wo têra shaw-ad

bâd-é jân-afzâ wakhim gard-ad wabâ
âteshê khâkestarê gard-ad habâ

bâgh-é chûn jannat shaw-ad dâru 'l-maraZ
zard-o rêzân barg-é ô andar HaraZ

`aql-é darrâk az firâq-é dôst-ân
ham-chô tîr-andâz-é eshkasta kamân

dôzakh az furqat chon-ân sôzân shod-ast
pîr az furqat chon-ân larzân shod-ast

3695 gar be-gôy-am az firâq-é chûn sharâr
tâ qiyâmat yak bow-ad az Sad hazâr

pas ze-sharH-é sôz-é ô kam zan nafas
rabbi sallim, rabbi sallim gô-î-wo bas

har-che az way shâd gard-î dar jahân
az firâq-é ô be-y-andêsh ân zamân

z-ân-che gasht-î shâd, bas kas shâd shod
âkhir az way jast-o ham-chûn bâd shod

3699 az tô ham be-j'had tô del bar way ma-neh
pêsh az ân k-ô be-j'had, az way tô be-jeh

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)