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

Mathnawi III: 3837-3859

3837 Even if that beloved-faced One1 sheds my blood, I will
scatter (my) soul before Him, (while) stamping (my dancing) feet.2

I've experienced (that) my death is in life.3 (But) when I escape
from this life, it will be an eternal (state).

"O my faithful friends, kill me, kill me! For in my being killed
there is life upon life."4

3840 O You who illumine the face! O Everlasting Spirit! Draw my
spirit (to You), and be generous toward me in the Encounter (with

For me, there is a Beloved whose love is roasting (my) heart.
(And) if He wishes to walk upon my eyes, let Him walk (as He

Speak Persian (again),6 even though Arabic is more elegant. But
there are a hundred other tongues for (describing) love.

(Yet) when the scent of the beloved is flying (everywhere),7 all
those tongues become bewildered.8

I will stop (talking). The Beloved has entered into speech, (so) be
(all) ears! And God knows best what is right.

3845 Since the lover has repented,9 now be afraid10-- since, like
roving knights (on the path of Love),11 he may teach lessons on the

(But) although this lover is travelling to Bukhara,13 he is not going
for lessons or to a teacher.14

For the lovers (of God), the (only) teacher is the Beloved's Beauty.
(And) their (only) book, lesson, and lecture is His Face.

They are silent and (yet) the shouts of their repetition (of the
praises of God)15 are going up to the Throne of their Beloved.16

Their (only) lesson is (spiritual) turmoil, whirling, and agitation--
not the (legalisms of the book called) "Abundances"17 and the
chapter about the "chain" (of causation).18

3850 The "chain" of these people19 is the musk-scattering (chain-
like) curls (of the Beloved).20 There is the question of the "circle"
(of reasoning),21 but it (is about) the circle of the Friend.22

If someone asks you about the (legal) question of the (stolen)
"purse,"23 say that the treasure of God cannot be held in purses.

If talk is proceeding about a wife-requested divorce or a mutually
agreed divorce, don't view it negatively, (since inward) mention of
[divorce from the beloved in] Bukhara is going on.

(For) the mention of any particular thing presents a special quality,
because every quality has an essential nature.24

You may attain mastery of (the branches of spiritual) knowledge in
Bukhara.25 (But) when you put (your) face (down) in (a state of)
humble lowliness,26 you will be free from (all) those.

3855 That man from Bukhara didn't have the sorrows and worries
of knowledge. (For) he was fixing (his) eyes on the sun (light) of
(direct) vision.

Whoever has found, (while) in solitude, the way to (direct) vision
won't seek a position of wealth and power by means of knowledge.27

When he becomes a companion with the beauty of the Soul, he
will have restlessness and dissatisfaction with knowledge and
knowing things.28

Vision is usually superior to knowledge.29 (And) for the common
people, the whole world surpasses (the next world in importance)
for this reason.

3859 Since they continue to see (this) world as of primary
importance, and they consider that (other) world as (nothing but)

--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" (, 3/15/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (3837) that beloved-faced One: Nicholson translated, "that One of
friendly countenance..."

2. (3837) I will scatter (my) soul before Him (while) stamping (my
dancing) feet: Nicholson translated, "...dancing (in triumph) I will
strew (lavish) my soul (life) upon Him."

3. (3838) I've experienced (that) my death is in life: Nicholson
translated, "I have tried it: my death is (consists) in life." And he
explained: "i.e. the result of self-existence is spiritual death."
(Commentary) "It means, 'In being alive with this perishing life of
mine, the meaning is death. If I become freed from this transitory
life, it will be everlasting for me.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary) In
other words, this brief life is really "death," and death will be
eternal "life." (

4. (3839) in my being killed there is life upon life: "A well-known
verse by Halláj [= a sufi with radical teachings, executed in 922 for
allegedly saying, "I am the Truth/God"], altered for the sake of the
meter." (Nicholson, Commentary) Nicholson referred to similar
verses (which he translated): "To me the berry of dying has
become sweet: (the text) 'nay, they are living' [= Qur'an 2:154;
3:169] has come (from God) to my account. Slay me, my trusty
friends, slay me, vile as I am: verily in my being slain is my life for
evermore. Verily, in my death is my life, O youth-- how long shall
I be parted from my home? Until when?" (I: 3833-35) And he
explained: "Here the poet definitely brings out the mystical sense
of 'death' which has already been suggested by vv. 3927-3928
supra. [= "The death of deathlessness is lawful to us, the provision
of unprovidedness is a bounty to us. 'Tis death outwardly but life
inwardly: apparently 'tis a cutting-off (decrease), in secret (in
reality) 'tis permanence (life without end)."] The Qur'ánic text may
be understood as a canon against 'self-slaughter' in that sense [=
since suicide is strictly forbidden in Islam], for the faná of the
mystic is bestowed on him by Divine grace and is incompatible
with personal initiative or self-activity of any kind." (Commentary)

5. (3841) let Him walk (as He will): Nicholson translated, "if He
wished to walk upon mine eye, He would walk (upon it, and be

6. (3842) Speak Persian (again): Rumi is speaking to himself here,
since the previous three lines were in Arabic.

7. (3843) when the scent of the beloved is flying (everywhere): "(It
means), becoming evident and reaches the sense of smell of the
lovers" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

8. (3843) all those tongues become bewildered: means that no one
can speak any language because of bewilderment at the
attractiveness of the Beloved.

9. (3845) Since the lover has repented: Nicholson referred here to I:
2205 (which he translated), "O thou whose knowledge is without
knowledge of the Giver of knowledge, thy repentance is worse
than thy sin." And he explained: "... self-consciousness [= ego-
centered thinking] is the greatest of all sins (I 517, note). [= a
reference to Rumi's words, "and being is a sin", Nicholson
commented: "One who regards himself as existing and acting
individually is, in effect, denying the Divine Unity."]. Hence the
elect [= the sufi saints] do not repent of sinful acts as such, but
only of ghaflat, i.e. forgetting God even for a moment."

10. (3845) now be afraid: "The commentators explain that one must
beware of supposing the 'repentant' lover to have renounced the
real object of his love; on the contrary, he has renounced
everything except God (má siwá 'lláh). But I think the point rather
lies in the danger that, like Hallaj, he may proclaim what should be
kept as an ineffable mystery." (Nicholson, Commentary) "You
may make the analogy that the lover has repented of (his love for)
the beloved. But the lover is repenting of making repentance and of
returning to another (beloved) -- not from (his) beloved. He cares
only for his beloved. And like the roving knights (on the path of
Love), he is giving lessons on the gallows about being erased and
annihilated (of ego)." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

11. (3845) roving knights [`ayyâr-ân] (on the path of Love): originally
a term for a knight's assistant, later for a shrewd adventurer and a
wandering rascal. In sufism, the term refers to someone who
followed a combination the teachings of chivalry and sufism, as
well as someone who concealed being a dervish beneath a non-
conformist and blamable appearance. "Súfís use `ayyár,
'vagabond', in the same way as rind, i.e. a reckless devotee (sar-
báz-i taríq-i mahabbah) [= soldier on the path of Love]."
(Nicholson, Commentary) "The meaning is soldiers in the (sufi)
path of love [Tarîq-é `ishq]." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

12. (3845) he may teach lessons on the gallows: another reference to
the radical mystic, Hallaj, who was executed for allegedly
proclaiming, "I am the Truth/God."

13. (3846) (But) although this lover is travelling to Bukhara: "(It
means) he is travelling toward the dwelling place of the beloved."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

14. (3846) he is not going for lessons or to a teacher: "Because love
cannot be obtained with lessons and a teacher." (Anqaravi,

15. (3848) their repetition (of the praises of God): "their repetition"
can only mean the repeated chanting called "remembrance of God"
[Zikru 'llâh], an Islamic form of prayer which is a specialty of the

16. (3848) Beloved: Nicholson translated this word here as, "Friend."

17. (3849) the (legalisms of the book called) "Abundances" [ziyâdât]:
"probably a treatise on fiqh [= Islamic law] bearing that title by the
Hanafite lawyer Muhammad ibnu 'l-Hasan al-Shaybání."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

18. (3849) the chapter about the "chain" [silsilah] (of causation): "That
silsilah here means some kind of logical concatenation [= linkage]
would seem to be undeniable in view of the whole context and, in
particular, the association of silsilah with dawr [= circle] in the
following verse. Probably it is a special form of the method of
qiyás [= reasoning by analogy] developed by Abú Hanifah and his
school." (Nicholson, Commentary)

19. (3850) these people: Nicholson translated, "these people (the
lovers of God)..."

20. (3850) the musk-scattering (chain-like) curls (of the Beloved):
"Súfís compare the world of phenomena to the dark chain-like
ringlets of a beauty. Although from a certain point of view all
phenomena veil the face of Reality from its lovers, the illumined
mystic regards them as theatres (maZâhir) for the manifestation of
the Divine Names and Attributes underlying them." (Nicholson,
Commentary) "In the terminology of the lovers, it is an expression
of the manifestation of the Divine Attributes.... for the lovers
regard all of existence as the manifestation of the Divine
Attributes-- and nothing exists except those." (Anqaravi,

21. (3850) the question of "the circle" (of reasoning): "In order to
prove the necessity of an absolute self-existent Cause, Moslem
theologians demonstrate the fallacy of two alternative hypotheses,
technically called the 'chain' and the 'circle', either of which would
render such a Cause unnecessary. The 'chain' is a series of
contingent causes going backward ad infinitum; the 'circle'
involves the absurdity that A depends on B, which in turn depends
on A." (Nicholson, Commentary) Nicholson added: "As an
instance of legal 'arguing in a circle', Fa [= Anqaravi] mentions the
case where inheritance of property depends on proof that one of
two persons who were drowned at the same time expired before
the other." (Commentary) Anqaravi's example involves the
hypothetical case of a father and one of his sons drowning
together, which would cause the laws for inheritance to be
confounded. (Commentary)

22. (3850) the circle of the Friend: "God, or Divine Love, is a circle
bi-kulli shay-in muhít" [= "Truly, He encompasses all things"
(Qur'an 41:54)]. (Nicholson, Commentary)

23. (3851) the (legal) question of the (stolen) "purse": involves various
factors involved in judging whether to punish a thief for stealing a
purse containing money from another man's sleeve (men used to
carry things in their large sleeves).

24. (3853) every quality has an essential nature: Nicholson translated,
"... the mention (recollection) of anything produces a particular
(spiritual) effect, inasmuch as every quality has a quiddity." And
he explained: "Words and expressions signify qualities, and since
the mystic knows that God is the essence of every quality, he is
conscious, whenever he speaks or thinks, of experiencing some
particular effect (khássiyyah) of the Divine nature." (Nicholson,

25. (3854) You may attain mastery of (the branches of spiritual)
knowledge in Bukhara: "It means, "The city of Bukhara, which is
the place of knowledge, it is the same city (containing) the
presence of the perfected spiritual master [shaykh-é kâmil].
Therefore, O lover, you will gain outward and inward knowledge
in the company and service of the perfected spiritual master.... and
it is in this stage that the sincere lover is able to become free from
acquiring (spiritual) knowledge, and (the possibility of) gaining
(direct) vision [= contemplation of the beloved's face] appears (to
him)." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

26. (3854) in (a state of) humble lowliness: means, "When you
abandon pride of learning the things of the mind and become
humbled and lowly [= annihilated of ego], you will be free from
needing intellectual knowledge." There is a word play here
between "lowliness" [ba-khwârî] and "Bukhara" (bukhârâ].

27. (3856) a position of wealth and power by means of knowledge:
religious scholars who had attained the most mastery of the
"religious sciences" were often tempted to accept positions of
influence and power (such as becoming prominent judges). But the
sincere sufi seeker, who acquires spiritual knowledge from a sufi
shaykh, or master, will not be attracted to worldly advantages.
Instead, he will lose the inclination to acquire further knowledge,
and will yearn to contemplate the Beauty of God directly.

28. (3857) restlessness and dissatisfaction with knowledge and
knowing things: Nicholson translated, "He will have a disgust of
traditional learning and knowledge."

29. (3858) Vision is usually superior to knowledge: Nicholson later
changed his translation to, "Vision is generally superior to
knowledge" (from, "Vision is superior to knowledge"). And he
explained that the word in question is adverbial. (Commentary)
Anqaravi's Commentary (upon which Nicholson depended upon
more than any other) states directly that this word is adverbial.

30. (3859) (nothing but) debt: most people look to this world as a place
of visible gain, but think of the next world in terms of loss (of the
enjoyments of this world) and of having to "pay" for their sins.
"But the (spiritually) elect, in contrast to this, view this world as a
dream, a fantasy, and as something quickly fading.... And they
know the Hereafter to be the true coin of subsisting and lasting
existence, grace, and joy." (Anqaravi, Commentary)


3837 gar be-rêz-ad khûn-é man ân dôst-rô
pây-é kôbân jân bar afshân-am ba-rô

âzmûd-am marg-é man dar zendagî-st
chûn rah-am z-în zendagî pâyandagî-st

uqtulûn-î uqtulûn-î yâ Siqât
inna fî qatl-î Hayât-an fî Hayât

3840 yâ munîra 'l-khaddi yâ rûHa 'l-baqâ
ijtaZib rûH-î wa jud-lî bi 'l-liqâ

lî Habîb-un Hubba-hu yashwî 'l-Hashâ
law yashâ yamshî `alà `ayn-î mashà

pârsî gô gar-che tâzî khwash-tar-ast
`ishq-râ khwad Sad zabân-é dîgar-ast

bôy-é ân del-bar chô parrân mê-shaw-ad
ân zabân-hâ jumla Hayrân mê-shawad

bas kon-am del-bar dar âmad dar khiTâb
gôsh shaw, wa 'llâhu a`lâm bi 'S-Sawâb

3845 chûn-ke `âshiq tawba kard aknûn be-tars
k-ô chô `ayyâr-ân kon-ad bar dâr dars

gar-che în `âshiq bukhârâ mê-raw-ad
na ba-dars-o na ba-ostâd mê-raw-ad

`âshiq-ân-râ shod mudarris Husn-é dôst
daftar-o dars-o sabaq-eshân rôy-é ô-st

khâmush-and-o na`ra-yé takrâr-eshân
mê-raw-ad tâ `arsh-o takht-é yâr-eshân

dars-eshân âshûb-o charkh-o zalzalah
na ziyâdât-ast-o bâb-é silsilah

3850 silsila-yé în qawm ja`d-é mushk-bâr
mus'ala-yé dawr-ast, lêkin dawr-é yâr

mus'ala-yé kîs ar be-pors-ad kas to-râ
gô na-gonj-ad ganj-é Haq dar kîsa-hâ

gar dam-é khul`-wo mubâ-râ mê-raw-ad
bad ma-bîn, Zikr-é bukhârâ mê-raw-ad

Zikr-e har chîzê deh-ad khâSîyatê
z-ân-ke dâr-ad har Sifat mâhîyatê

dar bukhârâ dar honar-hâ bâligh-î
chûn ba-khwârî rô neh-î z-ân fârigh-î

3855 ân bukhârî ghuSSa-yé dânesh na-dâsht
chashm bar khworshêd-é bînesh mê-gomâsht

har ke dar khalwat ba-bînesh yâft râh
ô ze-dânesh-hâ na-jôy-ad dast-gâh

bâ jamâl-é jân chô shod ham-kâsa'yê
bâsh-ad-ash z-akhbâr-o dânesh tâsa'yé

dîd bar dânesh bow-ad ghâlib farâ
z-ân hamê dunyâ be-charbod `âmma-râ

3859 z-ân-ke dunyâ-râ hamê bîn-and `ayn
w-ân jahânê-râ hamê dân-and dayn

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)