Mary and the Angel Gabriel

Mathnawi III: 3700-3711, 3767-3788

The appearing of the Holy Spirit1 in the form of a man to
Mary at the time of (her) nakedness and washing (herself),
and her taking shelter in (the protection of) God Most High

3700 Before the passing away of (your) possessions [at your
death], speak to the form [of this world], like Mary2 (the
mother of Jesus), (who) said, "I seek refuge from you in the
Most Merciful."3

Mary saw a very life-increasing form4 in (her) solitary
place-- a life-increasing (and) heart-stealing (form).

(Right) in front of her, that Faithful Spirit5 rose up
from the face of the earth, like the moon and the sun.

A beauty without a veil rose up from the earth, in the
same manner as the sun rises up from the east.

Trembling occurred in Mary's limbs, since she was naked
and fearful of wickedness and violence.

3705 (It was such) a (beautiful) form that, if Joseph had
seen (it) clearly, he would have cut his hands in amazement
like the (Egyptian) women.6

It grew like a rose from the earth in front of her, like
a mental image which raises (its) head from the heart.

Mary became lost of self (from fear), and in being transported
from herself she said, "I'll jump into the protection of

Because that pure-breasted one had made it (her) custom,
(when) in retreat [from sin], to go toward the Unseen.

Since she viewed the world as an impermanent kingdom,
she wisely made that (Divine) Presence a fortification,

3710 So that at the moment of death she would have a
fortress which the enemy could not find a way to

3711 She found no better fortress than God's protection,
(and) she chose a resting place near to that castle.

. . . . . . .

3767 When, (in that) one moment, Mary had become (so)
agitated,8 like the fish on the ground,

The speaking of the Holy Spirit to Mary, saying, "I am the
messenger of God to you. Don't be disturbed and don't take
refuge from me, since this is the command (of God)."

The manifestation of (Divine) Kindness called out to
her, saying, "I am the trustworthy one of the (Divine)
Presence. Don't flee in fear from me.

"Don't draw (your) head back from the exalted ones of
the (Divine) Glory; don't shrink from such benevolent
confidants (of God)."

3770 He was saying this, and (at the same time) a
candle-wick of pure light was going from his lips
continuously to the heavens.9

"You are escaping from my existence into
non-existence10-- (yet) in (the world of) non-existence I am
a king and possessed of a royal flag.

"My very place and dwelling is in non-existence, (and)
only my (outward) form11 is in front of the Lady.

"O Mary, observe that I am a difficult form (to
understand), (since) I am (like) the new moon as well as a
(mental) image in the heart.12

"When an image comes (and) sits down in your heart, it
is with you wherever you run away (to)--

3775 "Except, (that is), a (mental) image which is a trivial
incident, something absurd and false, (and) one which is
like the false dawn (which) disappears.13

"I am like the true dawn (and) from the Light of the
Lord, since no night circles around my day.

"Take care (and) don't (pray) 'There is no power (except
in God),'14 (O) my daughter of Imran,15 since I have
descended to this side from (the source of) 'There is no

"For me, 'There is no power' is (my very) origin and
provision, (and) the light of (such) a 'There is no power'
was prior to the Word (which began the creation of the

"You continue to take refuge with God from me, (yet) I
am the (very) picture of refuge (long) before this.17

3780 "I am that protection which was18 your (past) place of
escapes. You are saying, 'I take refuge!'19-- and (yet) I am
myself that 'I take refuge.'

"There isn't a plague worse than ignorance. You are with
a beloved20 and (yet) you don't know the love-play (and ways
of lovers).

"You keep thinking (your) friend (is) a stranger, (and)
you have placed the name of grief upon a joy."

Just like this date palm, which is the favor of our
friend,21 (yet) his date palm is our gallows because we are

(And) like this musk-scented object, which is the curl
of our (beloved) prince,22 (yet) it is our chain because we
are devoid of reason.23

3785 (And) like this (Divine) grace, which resembles a Nile
(river) passing along, (yet) it becomes like blood because
we are Pharaohs.24

The blood keeps saying, "I am (pure) water. Take care
(and) don't spill (me)! I am (like) Joseph, (but) because of
you I am the wolf,25 O quarrelsome man."

Can't you see that a patient friend26 becomes like a
snake when you have become opposed to him.

3788 (Yet) the flesh and fat of his (body) has not become
different.27 He didn't become so "evil," except from (his)
appearance (to you).28

--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" (, 5/3/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (Heading) the Holy Spirit [rûHu 'l-qudus]: this is
understood to mean the angel Gabriel. Nicholson translated
"the Holy Spirit (Gabriel)."

2. (3700) speak to the form [of this world], like Mary:
Nicholson translated, "Say to the form (of created things),
like Mary." And he explained: Mary was not tempted even by
the visionary naqsh [= form] of Gabriel." (Commentary)

3. (3700) "I seek refuge from you in the Most Merciful: a
verse from the Qur'an: "And mention Mary in the Book [of the
Qur'an], when she withdrew from her family to an eastern
place. She took a screen (to seclude herself) from them.
Then We sent Our spirit* [rûHa-nâ] to her, who appeared to
her in the likeness of a well-formed man. She said, 'I seek
refuge from you in the Merciful, if you are God-fearing.' He
said, 'Truly, I am the messenger of your Lord, in order to
(convey His message): "I will give (you) the gift of a pure
son."'" (19:16-19)

*Our spirit: usually translated as "our angel" to avoid
confusion in the Western reader with Christian doctrines
about the Holy Spirit. The "spirit" of God has always been
understood by Muslims to mean the angel Gabriel-- as is
stated directly in the New Testament: "And... the angel
Gabriel was sent from God... to a virgin... and the virgin's
name was Mary, and he went in and spoke to her.... And she
was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what
this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, 'Mary,
do not be afraid; you have won God's favour. Listen! You are
to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus.'"
(Luke 1:26-31)

"Our spirit (means), 'Our spirit which is the same one
as Gabriel.'" (Anqaravi, the 17th century Turkish
commentator on the Mathnawi/Masnavi, translated here into
English from a Persian translation).

4. (3701) Mary saw a very life-increasing form: "It means,
'She saw a beautiful (form).'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

5. (3703 Faithful Spirit [rûHu 'l-amîn]: a title of the
angel Gabriel.

6. (3705) he would have cut his hands in amazement like the
(Egyptian) women: refers to the story of Joseph in the
Qur'an. When Joseph was shown to a group of Egyptian women,
who had been cutting fruit with knives, they were so
distracted by their amazement at his beauty that they
accidentally cut their hands. "And they said, 'God protect
us! This is not a man; this is not other than a noble
angel.'" (12:30)

7. (3710) for which the enemy could not find a way to aim
(destruction): Nicholson translated, "which the Enemy would
find no way to attack."

8. (3767) Mary had become (so) agitated: "(It means), 'The
moment when Hazrat-i Maryam-- may God be pleased with her,
became agitated from seeing Gabriel in the form of a (male)
youth and she came to be trembling like a fish fallen upon
the ground.' This verse can be considered to be for the sake
of the (previous) verse [= 3704]: it made Mary's limbs to
tremble, since she was naked and feared wickedness and
violence." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

9. (3770) to the heavens: literally, "to the Two Fishes,"
which are the names of two stars near Arcturus. "(The
meaning) is the heavens, intending the upper world."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

10. (3771) into non-existence: Nicholson explained that this
is equivalent to "dar ghayb" [= into the Unseen realm of
existence]. (Commentary)

11. (3772) only my (outward) form: "(It means), 'This form
which I maintain in your presence, Lady, is my visionary
image and a form of resemblance-- not my essential and
original form.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

12. (3773) I am (like) the new moon as well as a (mental)
image in the heart: "To the outward eye Gabriel has the
semblance of a 'new-moon', but that is only his súrat-i
mithálí [= form of resemblance]: his real 'form' is the
Divine attributes displayed by him and reflected as an image
in the mirror of the mystic's heart." (Nicholson,

"(It means), 'Since I am both the new moon from the
viewpoint of the outward eye, as well as a vision within the
heart, from the viewpoint that I am hidden from the outward
eye.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

13. (3776) the false dawn (which) disappears: a dim light
sometimes seen above for some minutes, followed by darkness.
It is distinguished from the true dawn, when the sky around
the horizon begins to grow light. The time allowed for the
performance of the Islamic morning prayer is between true
dawn and the beginning of sunrise.

14. (3777) There is no power [lâ Hawl]: the contraction of a
common Islamic prayer: "There is no power and and no
strength but in God, the Most High, the Most Great" [lâ
Hawla wa lâ quwwata illâ bi 'llâhi 'l-`alîyi 'l-`âZîm]. This
is related to the prayer mentioned in the Qur'an (18:39):
"Say, '(It is) what God has willed [mâ shâ' 'llâh] There is
no power but with God!'" [lâ quwwata illâ bi 'llâh].
Nicholson translated, "Hark, do not cry Lá hawl against
me." And he explained: "i.e. 'do not take refuge with God in
fear of me'. (Commentary)

15. (3777) daughter of Imran: an epithet of Mary (Qur'an
3:35), the mother of Jesus. Her father was named Imran and
her mother was descended from the priestly family of Imran
(Amran in the Bible), the father of Moses and Aaron (see
Luke 1:5, regarding Mary's cousin Elizabeth, the mother of
John the Baptist).

16. (3777) from (the source of) 'There is no power: "In the
second hemistich [= the second half of the couplet] lá hawl
[= There is no power] signifies the eternal Divine
omnipotence, which is the essence of the words lá hawla
wa-lá quwwata illa bi-'lláhi and of Gabriel himself."
(Nicholson, Commentary) "[This prayer is] has great effect
in driving away and repelling satans, jinn [= genies],
sensual thoughts, and the whispering temptations of Satan."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

17. (3779) (long) before this: "(It means), 'In Eternity.'"
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

18. (3780) was [bûZ] [= bûd]: "the post-vocalic dhál is
retained here on account of the rhyme." (Nicholson,

19. (3780) I take refuge [a'`ûZu]: a prayer said by Mary
(Qur'an 19:18). It is a prayer for seeking the protection of
God against evil (see also verses 2:67; 11:47; 23:97, 98;
113:1; 114:1). A common Muslim prayer is, "I seek refuge in
God from Satan, the Accursed" [a'`ûZu bi 'llâhi mina
'sh-shayTâni 'r-rajîm].

20. (3781) You are with a beloved: "Although this noble
verse is addressed to Mary from the tongue of Hazrat-i
Jibreel [= Gabriel]-- peace be upon him, yet the purpose of
Hazrat-i Mawlànâ (Jalaluddin Rumi)-- may God sanctify his
exalted grave, is wider: (it is addressed) to the
(spiritual) seekers who have become connected with a
perfected sufi guide [murshid-é kâmil], but don't know the
customs of (mystic) lovers..." (Anqaravi, Commentary)
21. (3783) the favor of our friend: Nicholson translated,

"Such a date-palm, which is our Friend's favour--since we
are robbers, His date palm is our gallows." "It means,
'Since we are not in knowledge, true understanding, and
sincerity, then His date-palm is a place of punishment and
an instrument of affliction and calamity for us.'"
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

22. (3784) this musk-scented object, which is the curl of
our (beloved) prince: "The intended meaning of the
musk-scented lock (of hair) is the noble existence of the
prophets and saints." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

23. (3784) it is our chain because we are devoid of reason:
in Persian poetry, the beloved's hair is often compared to
chains. And since crazy people were bound in chains, the
lover is depicted as being chained (due to his attraction)
by the chain-like locks of the beloved's hair.

24. (3785) it becomes like blood because we are Pharaohs:
"Among the plagues sent upon the people of Pharaoh (Qur. VII
130) was the plague of blood, so that whenever an Egyptian
would drink water, it turned to blood in his mouth."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

25. (3786) I am (like) Joseph, (but) because of you I am the
wolf: Joseph was known for his handsome beauty (Qur'an
12:31). And he was the favorite of his father, Jacob. But
his jealous brothers threw him down a well to get rid of
him, and told their father that Joseph had been killed by a
wolf (12:17).

26. (3787) a patient friend: "It means a forbearing,
peaceable, and good-doing companion." (Anqaravi,

27. (3788) the flesh and fat of his (body) has not become
different: Nicholson translated, "His flesh and fat (real
nature) is unchanged."

28. (3788) He didn't become so "evil," except from (his)
appearance (to you): "i.e. because you look upon him with
the eye of 'self'. Cf. I 1319-1332 and the notes ad loc." [=
"'Do not look on others through the medium of your evil
"self", for then you will see in them only the reflexion of
your own evil, and will regard them as enemies'.... Rúmí
does not enter here into questions concerning the origin and
true character of 'evil'... but what he says in the present
passage is based on the doctrine that all so-called 'evil'
is an illusion arising from the diversity of Divine
attributes reflected in human nature, and that only our
egoism prevents us from seeing the 'soul of goodness'
everywhere. So far as evil exists in us, its source is the
unreal 'self' by which we are separated from God. Purge the
heart of 'self', and evil disappears." (Nicholson,


paydâ shodan-é rûHu 'l-qudus ba-Sûrat-é âdamê
bar maryam ba-waqt barahnagî wa ghusl kardan
wa panâh-gereftan ba-Haqq-é ta`âlà

3700 ham-chô maryam gôy pêsh az fawt-é milk
naqsh-râ k-al-`awZu bi 'r-raHmân-é min-k

dîd maryam Sûratê bas jân-fezâ
jân-fezâyê, del-robâyê dar khalâ

pêsh-é ô bar rost az rôy-é zamîn
chûn mah-o khworshêd ân rûHu 'l-amîn

az zamîn bar rost khwobê bê-niqâb
ân-chon-ân k-az sharq rôy-ad âftâb

larza bar a`Zây-ê maryam ôftâd
k-ô barahna bûd-o tarsîd az fasâd

3705 Sûratê ke yûsuf ar dîdy `ayân
dast az Hayrat borîdy chûn zan-ân

ham-chô gol pêsh-ash be-rôyîd ân ze-gel
chûn khayâlê ke bar âr-ad sar ze-del

gasht bê-khwad maryam-o dar bê-khwadî
goft be-j'h-am dar panâh-é îzadî

z-ân-ke `âdat karda bûd ân pâk-jayb
dar hazîmat rakht bordan sôy-e ghayb

chûn jahân-râ dîd mulkê bê-qarâr
Hâzim-âna sâkht z-ân HaZrat HiSâr

3710 tâ ba-gâh-é marg HiSnê bâsh-ad-ash
ke na-yâb-ad khaSm râh-é maqSad-ash

3711 az panâh-é Haq HiSârê beh na-dîd
yôrt-gah nazdîk-é ân dez bar-gozîd

. . . . . . .

3767 chûn-ke maryam muZTarib shod yak-zamân
ham-chon-ân-ke bar zamîn ân mâhiy-ân

goftan-é rûHu 'l-qudus maryam-râ ke man rasûl-é
Haqq-am ba-tô, âshofta ma-shaw wa penhân ma-shaw
az man ke farmân-é în-ast

bâng bar way zad namûdâr-é karam
ke amîn-é HaZrat-am az man ma-ram

az sar-afrâz-ân-é `izzat sar ma-kash
az chon-în khwash-maHramân khwad dar ma-kash

3770 în hamê goft-o Zubâla-yé nûr-é pâk
az lab-ash mê-shod pay-â-pay bar simâk

az wujûd-am mê-gorêz-î dar `adam
dar `adam man shâh-am-o SâHib-`alam

khwad bonah-o bon-gâh-é man dar nîstî-st
yak-sowâra naqsh-é man pêsh-é setî-st

maryam-â ne-n'gar ke naqsh-é mushkil-am
ham hilâl-am, ham kheyâl andar del-am

chûn kheyâlê dar del-at âmad neshast
har ko-jâ ke mê-gorêz-î bâ tow-ast

3775 joz khayâlê, `ârizîyê, bâTilê
k-ô bow-ad chûn SubH-é kâZib âfilê

man chô subH-é Sâdiq-am az nûr-é rab
ke na-gard-ad gerd-é rôz-am hêch shab

hîn ma-kon lâ Hawl `imrân-zâda-am
ke ze-lâ Hawl în Taraf oftâda-am

mar ma-râ aSl-o ghiZâ lâ Hawl bow-ad
nûr-é lâ hawlê ke pêsh az qawl bow-ad

tô hamê gîr-î panâh az man ba-Haq
man negârîda-yé panâh-am dar sabaq

3780 ân panâh-am man ke makhlaS-hâ-t bûZ
tô `a'ûZ âr-î-wo man khwad ân a'`ûZ

âfatê na-b'w-ad batar az nâ-shenâkht
tô bar-é yâr-o na-dân-î `ishq-bâkht

yâr-râ aghyâr pendâr-î hamê
shâdiyê-râ nâm be-n'hâd-î ghamê

în chon-în nakhlê ke luTf-é yâr-é mâ-st
chûn-ke mâ dozd-êm nakhl-ash dâr-é mâ-st

în chon-în moshkîn ke zolf-é mîr-é mâ-st
chûn-ke bê-`aql-êm, în zanjîr-é mâ-st

3785: în chon-în luTfê chô nêlê mê-raw-ad
chûn-ke fir`awn-êm, chûn khûn mê-shaw-ad

khûn hamê gôy-ad man âb-am, hîn ma-rêz
yûsuf-am, gorg az tow-am ay por-setêz

tô na-mê-bîn-î ke yâr-é bord-bâr
chûn-ke bâ ô Zid shod-î gard-ad chô mâr

3788 laHm-é ô-wo shaHm-é ô dêgar na-shod
ô chon-ân bad joz ke az manZar na-shod

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)