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

Mathnawi III: 3789-3807

The prime minister's making an intention to return to
Bukhara because of (his) love, fearing nothing

3789 Quit [this other story],1 since that burning (lover) is
going to Bukhara --

3790 Very impatiently, and in the intense furnace (of love).
Go (on and) "flee"2 toward (the story) of the king (of

This "Bukhara"3 is (a metaphor) for the source of
(spiritual) knowledge. Therefore, a "native of Bukhara" is
anyone who has that (knowledge).

(And) you are in "Bukhara" (when) you are (sitting) in
the presence of a (spiritual) master.4 So don't look at
Bukhara as something contemptible.5

(Since) other than (humble) lowliness (on your part)6
toward the Bukhara of his heart, its difficult low and high
tides7 will not offer (you) the way (to reach it).

Oh (how spiritually) happy (is) the one whose ego8 (is)
meekly submissive! (And) what sorrow (for) the person whose
(own stubborn) kicking causes (him) to fall to the ground!9

3795 Separation from the King had made the pillars inside
(his) soul (to break) into pieces.

(The prime minister) said, "I'll get up, and go back
there. (And) if I've become an unbeliever, I'll believe
another time.10

"I'll go back there (and) fall (in obeisance) in front
of him, before (Bukhara's) good-thinking11 King.

"I'll say, 'I'm throwing my life before you: make (me)
live, or sever my head like a sheep!12

"'O (beautiful full) Moon, (being) killed and dead in
your presence is better than (being) king of the living (in)
some other place.

3800 "'I have examined (this) more than a thousand times.
Without you, I don't experience my life as pleasant (any

"'O object of my desire! Hum to me the sound of the
Resurrection!13 O (my) camel! Kneel (down),14 (since my) joy
is complete!

"'O earth! Swallow my tears! (For my weeping) has
already been sufficient. O (my) soul! Drink (from) a
watering place (which is) definitely pure!

"'O my festival! You've come (back) to us,15 (so be)
welcome! O east wind! What a pleasant and refreshing breeze
(you've brought)!'"16

He said, "O friends, farewell! I'm going to that King
who is the commander and one (who) should be obeyed.

3805 "I've become roasted in the burning (fire of love),
every moment. I'm going there, (so) whatever happens, let it

"Even though he is making (his) heart (as hard as) a
rock,17 my soul is making Bukhara its aim.

3807 "(Since) it is the dwelling place of my (dearest)
friend and the city of my king. In the lover's view, this is
(the meaning of the saying), 'love of (one's) homeland.'"18

--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" (, 3/1/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1.(3789) Quit [this other story]: literally, "Leave the
candle of Mary burning." "i.e. 'leave the Story of Mary
unfinished.'" (Nicholson, Commentary) Rumi had interrupted
his story about the king's prime minister, following a verse
(line 3699) about jumping away from worldly desires and
seeking God's help. This led him to tell the story of how
Mary, the mother of Jesus, leaped (via prayer) into the
protection of God (when the archangel Gabriel first appeared
to her in the form of a man (Qur'an 19:17), to announce that
she would give birth to a holy son).

2. (3790) flee: Nicholson translated, "make a transition to
the (story of ..." And he explained: "The context...
indicates that in the second hemistich the poet addresses
either himself or his amanuensis [= his recording
secretary], and that guríz [= escape] is used in its
technical sense." (Commentary) However, the use of this word
here also seems to be a word play on the use of the words
(translated as) "jumping away," "leaping," "escaping" in the
preceding sections. Anqaravi (the 17th century Turkish
commentator, whose work is translated here from a Persian
translation) interprets it as meaning, "Go toward the King
(of Bukhara)-- into the presence of the Beloved," and views
it in regard to the verse, "So flee to God" (Qur'an: 51:50).

3. (3791) This "Bukhara": "i.e. the heart of the Perfect
Man [= a term used in the mystical philosophy of the sufi
master, Ibnu 'l-`Arabi (died, 1240], the source of esoteric
knowledge." (Nicholson, Commentary) "The intended meaning of
'Bukhara' is a perfected spiritual master [shaykh-é kâmil],
who is the source of (spiritual) knowledge and the mine of
(direct) witnessing and seeing (of Reality)." (Anqaravi,

4. (3792) a (spiritual) master [shaykh]: literally, an old
man. But in sufi literature it means a sufi master or guide,
a "sufi shaykh."

5. (3792) don't look at Bukhara as something contemptible:
there is a word-play between "Bukhara" [bukhârâ] and
"something contemptible" [ba-khwârî].

6. (3793) (Since) other than (humble) lowliness (on your
part): "It means, 'The way will not be given to you to the
Bukhara of his heart-- which is the beloved's city-- except
with submissiveness and humility (on your part).'"
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

7. (3793) its difficult low and high tides: "The heart of
the Shaykh is compared to a sea which demands the most
cautious navigation." (Nicholson, Footnote) "The intended
meaning of the difficult low and high tides of the perfected
spiritual master [shaykh-é kâmil]: it is the two alternating
qualities and two variable states of the sea of his heart.
For example, such as his attracting and repelling. Due to
the power of his attraction, he draws the seeker whose deeds
and conduct cause satisfaction to his heart. But he hinders
and drives away the one who happens to become disliked."
(Anqaravi, Commentary).

8. (3794) ego [nafs]: the base self. A technical term in
sufism which refers to the sensual/bodily self, which is
full of worldly cravings and ego-centered preoccupations. It
resists submitting to God's Will, or to a spiritual master
who could guide and train disciples to surrender more deeply
to the Divine Will.

9. (3794) what sorrow (for) the person whose (own stubborn)
kicking causes (him) to fall to the ground: Nicholson
translated, "Alas for that one whose recalcitrance destroys
(him)!" Anqaravi paraphrased: "How unfortunate (is) the
state of the one whose heart palpitations reveal his
destruction (or downfall)!" He defined the word translated
here as "kicking" [rafs] as meaning "a blow in the chest"
and explained: "In this place the intended meaning is the
bad-natured habits of the ego [nafs]." (Anqaravi,

10. (3796) I've become an unbeliever, I'll believe another
time: means here, "If I've been an unfaithful lover, I'll
repent and become a faithful lover again."

11. (3797) good-thinking: means, here, more than "thinking
well," but one who meditates on what is good and beneficent.
Nicholson translated, "kindly thinking."

12. (3798) or sever my head like a sheep: a metaphor for
execution, since decapitation of a sheep would not done
until it has first been killed according to Islamic law,
with minimal pain and trauma (holding the animal, saying a
short prayer, cutting its throat quickly with a sharp knife,
letting it bleed to death in its own time, while allowing at
least one leg free to kick). "I will say to that revered
one: 'I am bestowing my life at your feet. Either bring
forgiveness (to me) and make me live, or sever my head with
the sword of anger, in the same manner that a sheep's head
is severed.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

13. (3801) Hum to me the sound of the Resurrection: "(It
means), 'Sing the sound of the Resurrection and the blowing
of the trumpet, so that my spirit may receive life.'"
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

14. (3801) O (my) camel! Kneel (down): means that the prime
minister is imagining himself arriving to the king's
presence. After asking to hear the sound of his king's
voice, the prime minister orders his camel to kneel down, so
he can climb off it, since his happiness is fulfilled. " (It
means), 'O camel of my being, kneel (down).'" (Anqaravi,
Commentary) Nicholson's interpretation is different (that it
means, "let me mount, O my soul, and journey home")-- and
seems less appropriate, since the minister is envisioning
himself as already being home.

15. (3803) O my festival! You've come (back) to us: there is
a word play between the two Arabic words, "festival" [`îd]
and "you've come (back)" [`udta]. The origin of both words
is the root meaning, "to come back repeatedly." In Islam,
there are two festivals: one following the annual month of
fasting during the daylight hours, and one following the
annual pilgrimage rites in Mecca.

16. (3803) What a pleasant and refreshing breeze (you've
brought): "(It means), 'O morning breeze which has blown
from the district of the beloved!'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

17. (3806) hard as a rock: there is a word-play between
"hard rock" [sang-é khârâ] and Bukhara [bukhârâ].

18. (3807) the saying), 'love of (one's) homeland': "Cf. the
Hadíth [= saying of the Prophet Muhammad]: hubbu 'l-watani
mina 'l-imán" [= love of (one's) homeland is a part of
(true) faith]. (Nicholson, Commentary) "Therefore the
homeland of the lover is the district of the beloved. In
(the view) of the lover, complete faith is a (metaphorical)
expression of the love and desire which he has for the
dwelling place of the beloved." (Anqaravi, Commentary)


`azm kardan ân wakîl az `ishq ke rujû` kon-ad ba-bukhârâ

3789 sham`-é maryam-râ be-hel afrôkhta
ke bukhârâ mê-raw-ad ân sôkhta

3790 sakht bê-Sabr-o dar âtash-dân-é têz
raw sôy-é Sadr-é jahân, mê-kon gorêz

în bukhârâ manba`-é dânesh bow-ad
pas bukhârâ'yî-st har k-ân-esh bow-ad

pêsh-é shaykhê dar bukhârâ andar-î
tâ ba-khwârî dar bukhârâ na-n'gar-î

joz ba-khwârî dar bukhârây-é del-ash
râh na-d'h-ad jazr-o madd-é mushkil-ash

ay khonok ân-râ ke Zallat nafsu-hu
wây ân kas-râ ke yurdî rafsu-hu

3795 furqat-é Sadr-é jahân dar jân-é ô
pâra pâra karda bûd arkân-é ô

goft bar khêz-am ham ân-jâ wâ raw-am
kâfir ar gasht-am, degar rah be-g'raw-am

wâ raw-am ân-jâ be-y-oft-am pêsh-é ô
pêsh-é ân Sadr-é nekô-andêsh-é ô

gôy-am afkand-am ba-pêsh-at jân-é khwêsh
zenda kon yâ sar be-bor mâ-râ chô mêsh

koshta-wo morda ba-pêsh-at ay qamar
beh ke shâh-é zenda-gân-é jây-é degar

3800 âzmûd-am man hazâr-ân bâr-é bêsh
bê-tô shîrîn mê-na-bîn-am `âysh-é khwêsh

ghanni-lî yâ munyat-î laHna 'n-nushûr
ubruk-î yâ nâqat-î tamma 's-surûr

ibla`-iy yâ arZu dam`-î qad kafà
ishrab-î yâ nafsu wird-an qad Safâ

`udta yâ `îd-î ilay-nâ marHabâ
ni`ma mâ rawwaHta yâ rîHa 'S-Sabâ

goft ay yâr-ân rawân gasht-am widâ`
sôy-é ân Sadrê ke amîr-ast-o muTâ`

3805 dam ba-dam dar sôz beryân mê-shaw-am
har-che bâdâ bâd, ân-jâ mê-raw-am

gar-che del chûn sang-é khârâ mê-kon-ad
jân-é man `azm-é bukhârâ mê-konad

3807 maskin-é yâr-ast-o shahr-é shâh-é man
pêsh-é `âshiq în bow-ad Hubbu 'l-waTan

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)