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

Mathnawi III: 3884-3915

The replying of the lover to those who blamed and warned (him)

3884 He said, "I am sick with edema and craving to drink water.1
The water attracts me,2 even though I know that it will also kill

3885 "No one sufferer of (such) edema will flee from the water,
even though it may checkmate and injure him two hundred times.

"Although my hands and belly are swollen, love for water will not
decrease from me.

"When I am asked about (my) inner (organs), I will say, 'If only the
ocean were flowing within (me)!'3

"Tell the leather skin of (my) belly: 'Go, (and) be torn by the waves
of water!'4 (And) if I die, my death is good.

"Jealousy comes to me anywhere I see the water of a stream5 (and
I think), '(If only) I were (in) its place!'

3890 "(With my) hand (swollen) like a tambourine and (my) belly
like a drum, I keep pounding the drum of love for the water-- like
the rose.6

"If that Spirit of Faithfulness7 sheds my blood, I will drink gulp
after gulp of (my) blood,8 like the earth.

"I am a drinker of blood, like the earth and like the embryo.9 (And)
this (has been) my occupation (ever) since I've been a lover.

"At night, I continue boiling on the fire,10 like a kettle. (And) from
day until evening, I'm drinking (my) blood, like the sand.

"I'm sorry that I made a plot (to escape and) fled from his angry

3895 "Tell (him to keep) driving his anger against my drunken
soul. He is (like) the Festival of Sacrifice12 and the lover is (like)
the buffalo (sacrificed for it).

"Whether the buffalo sleeps or eats something,13 he (continues)
fostering (it) for the Festival and the sacrificing.

"Consider me (to be like) the cow of Moses (which was) a yielder
of (its) life:14 my every part (is like) a resurrection for every
liberated one.15

"The cow of Moses was one which became a sacrifice; the smallest
part of her16 (was the cause of) life for a murdered man.

"After (receiving) its bruise, the killed man jumped up from his
place-- in regard to the speech (of God in the verse), 'Strike him
with a part of it.'17

3900 "O my generous and noble (friends)! Sacrifice this cow, if
you wish to resurrect clear-sighted spirits."18

"I died to the mineral state and became a plant; I died to
the vegetable state and reached animality;19

"I died to the animal state and became a man;20 then what
should I fear? -- I have never become less from dying.

"At the next charge (forward) I will die to human nature,21 so
that I may lift up (my) head and wings (and soar) among the

"And I must (also) jump from the river22 of (the state of) the
angel: 'Everything perishes except His Face.'23

3905 "Once again I will become sacrificed from (the state of) the
angel; I will become that which cannot come into the

"Then I will become non-existent;25 non-existence says to
me (in tones) like an organ:26 'Truly, to Him is our return.'27

"Know (that) the consensus of the (Islamic) community regarding
death is that the Water of Life is hidden in the (Land of)

"Grow, like the water-lily from the side of the river29 -- like the
sufferer of edema, greedy (for water) and seeking death.

"The water is his death, and (yet) he is the water's seeker and is
drinking (it). And God knows best what is right.

3910 "Oh [how pitiful is] the cold-hearted lover (wearing) the
cloak of shame, since he is fleeing in fright from the Beloved-- out
of fear of (losing his) life!30

"O disgrace (even) to women!31 See a hundred thousand souls
(joyously) clapping (their) hands32 (as they go) toward the sword of
His Love!

"You've found the river, (so) pour (the contents of) the pitcher into
the river. The water never flees from the river.33

"When the pitcher's water goes into the water of the river, it is
obliterated in it and becomes the river.34

"His attributes are annihilated and his essence (is) enduring.35 After
this, he will not become decreased or bad-fortuned.36

3915 "I have hanged myself on his palm tree337 (in) apology for
this-- that I fled from him."38

--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" (, 3/29/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (3884) sick with edema and craving to drink water: a medical
condition, formerly called "dropsy," in which the body swells up
due to excess fluids, yet the patient continues to suffer from great
thirst and seeks or demands more water.

2. (3884) The water attracts me: "(It means), 'The water of eternal
Union is drawing me to itself.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

3. (3887) If only the ocean were flowing within (me): "(It means), 'If
only the ocean of the water of Union were entirely flowing within
me and satisfied me! And if only this existence of mine were made
to be erased and annihilated!'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

4. (3888) Go, (and) be torn by the waves of water: "'(Go and)
explode, due to (the force of) the waves of water....!' It means: 'By
becoming full, more and more, with the water of Union within
me.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

5. (3889) anywhere I see the water of a stream: "(It means), 'In any
place that I see the water of a stream, and I cast my glance with
thirst for the water of pure Union with the Beloved.'" (Anqaravi,

6. (3890) I keep pounding the drum of love for the water-- like the
rose: "Because the rose derives its beauty from the water which
nourishes it." (Nicholson, Footnote) "Because the rose is receiving
growth from the water, and its elegance and freshness is from it."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

7. (3891) That Spirit of Faithfulness: an epithet of the archangel
Gabriel (Qur'an 26:193), which here is used to refer to the king of
Bukhara. "I.e. my Beloved who resembles Gabriel." (Nicholson,
Footnote) And Nicholson said: "i.e. the Perfect Man" [= the
perfected saint of God, who reflects God's Attributes, in the
mysticism of Ibnu 'l-`Arabi]. (Commentary) "(It means), 'That
sweet beloved who has the (same) rank of the Trustworthy Spirit
(Gabriel).'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

8. (3891) I will drink gulp after gulp of (my) blood: an idiom,
meaning enduring grievous suffering. Nicholson said that this
"alludes metaphorically to faná fí 'l-Shaykh" [= mystical
annihilation in the spiritual master]. (Commentary)

9. (3892) like the embryo: the embryo was viewed as a "blood-
drinker," since it gains its nourishment from its mother's blood
received through the umbilical cord. Nicholson referred here to
Mathnawi III: 67-78.
10. (3893) I continue boiling on the fire: "(It
means), 'I'm burning from the fire of love and boiling from the heat
of yearning.' .... The intended meaning of this is that the lover is
always burning in the fire of the afflictions (caused by love) of his
beloved." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

11. (3894) I'm sorry that I... fled from his angry intent: "Among the
lovers (of God), the beloved's anger is better and more beneficial
than the beloved's kindness." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

12. (3895) the Festival of Sacrifice [`îd-é qurbân]: one of two Islamic
festivals celebrated every year by Muslims world-wide. During
this festival, which follows the completion of the rites of
Pilgrimage in Mecca, a sheep, goat, cow, or camel is sacrificed.
Some of the meat may be eaten by the sacrificer and shared with
his party, but most is to be given to the poor.

13. (3896) Whether the buffalo sleeps or eats something: "Although
the mystic eats and drinks and sleeps like other people, it is not for
the sake of self-gratification (hazz-i nafs): he has no object in life
but self-sacrifice." (Nicholson, Commentary) "It is by the generous
giving of the body and the soul in the path of the beloved; not for
the pleasure of the lover's ego [HaZ-é nafs]." (Anqaravi,

14. (3897) the cow of Moses (which was) a yielder of (its) life: refers
to a story in the Qur'an (2:72-73) about how a man's murdered
body was found and no guilty party was found. God ordered the
cow to be killed (see Deuteronomy 21:1-7) and for part of its body
to be used to strike the corpse. This resulted in a miracle: the man
returned to life and declared who his killer was. Nicholson noted
an error in his translation ("... the cow of Moses that gave life (to
the murdered man)..." He said that the meaning should be "one that
gave up its life" = madhbúbí, not 'one that gave life (to the
murdered man).... The Translation... must be corrected."

15. (3897) my every part (is like) a resurrection for every liberated
one: Nicholson translated, "each limb of me is the (means of)
raising from the dead every one that is (spiritually) free." And he
explained: "i.e. he who dies to self thereby raises his unregenerate
spirit from the dead and endows it with everlasting life."

15. (3998) smallest part of her: "It is either the tail or else the ear of the
cow." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

16. (3999) 'Strike him with a part of it': Qur'an 2:73. See previous note
on line 3997.

17. (3900) Nicholson translated, "slaughter this cow (the fleshly
soul)..." And he explained (regarding Mathnawi II:1436):
"Allegorically interpreted, the cow is the carnal self (nafs) [= ego].
Through self-sacrifice the dead spirit is revived and endowed with
mystic knowledge." (Commentary)

18. (3900) Sacrifice this cow, if you wish to resurrect clear-sighted
spirits: Nicholson translated, "if you desire to raise to life the
spirits (possessed) of insight." And he explained: "i.e. the powers
of spiritual perception centered in the heart (qalb)." (Commentary)

"(It means), 'Kill the cow of my ego, by a voluntary death before
compulsory death.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary) Anqaravi also
quoted the famous sufi master Junayd (died, 910) as saying (in
Arabic): "Slaughter your egos [nafûsa-kum] with the swords of
opposition, because the ego is a great veil between you and God."
And he quoted the sufi Shibli (died, 846): "There is no life except
in death-- meaning there is no life of the spirit except in the death
of the ego."

19. (3901) and reached animality: "It means an animal which ate
plants." (Anqaravi, Commentary) translation of the famous Turkish
17th century commentary by Anqaravi)

20. (3902) and became a man: "It means: 'A man eats animals, then the
animal is the food for the existence of a man. (And) by this means
I manifested (on) the level of a human body.'" (Anqaravi,

21. (3903) I will die to human nature: "(It means), 'With a voluntary
death, I will pass from the human level' .... A lover (of God), who
is endowed with ego-annihilation [fanâ] will not be satisfied by
this (human) level." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

22. (3904) jump from the river: "i.e. 'to escape'." (Nicholson,
23. (3004) "Everything perishes except His Face": Qur'an 28:88.

24. (3005) that which cannot come into the imagination: refers to a
saying of the Prophet Muhammad: "What no eye has seen, what no
ear has hard, and what has never passed into the heart of any

25. (3906) Then I will become non-existent: "i.e. 'I shall become fání fí
'lláh." [= ecstatically annihilated (of self) in God] (Nicholson,

26. (3906) an organ: a type of pan-flute (pipes of different pitch tied
together), and therefore an ancient type of "mouth organ."

27 (3906) "Truly, to Him is our return": "Truly, we belong to God,
and to Him is our return." (Qur'an 2:156) These verses describe
re-ascent of the spirit back to God, following its descent into
matter. This not transmigration, reincarnation, or an early view of
biological evolution (see Chittick, "The Sufi Path of Love," pp.
72-82). Nicholson referred here to Mathnawi I: 3165-68 (which he
translated): "They cast a grain of wheat under earth, then from its
earth they raised up ears of corn;/ Once more they crushed it with
the mill: its value increased and it became soul-invigorating bread;/
Again they crushed the bread under their teeth: it became the mind
and spirit and understanding of one endowed with reason;/ Again,
when that spirit became lost in Love, it became (as that which
'rejoiceth the sowers' after the sowing." And he explained: "The
soul, as a mode of Divine Being, undergoes a similar evolution: in
order that its inherent potentialities may be developed and
exhibited, it descends into the world of matter, where from the
lowest phases of soul-life it gradually rises to the highest and,
having traversed the whole circle of existence and thus attained to
the utmost perfection of which it is capable, gives itself up to God
and realises its essential unity with Him." (Commentary)
Nicholson also referred to similar passages (Mathnawi III: 4177-
4189; I: 3871-76). In regard to the latter, he translated a passage
from Rumi's predecessor, the Persian sufi poet Sana'i (died, 1131)
from Sana'i, "(Hadíqah, IV 149b): 'Until the animal comes forth (is
freed) from its soul,/ It cannot find the way to the rank of man./
Then, when Man escapes from the rational soul,/ the
transcendental soul [= rûH-é qudsî] takes its place./ When he has
passed beyond the rational soul,/ He is made living by the soul of
the angels.'" (Commentary)

"Then, if he can abandon human cravings with his own free will
and die a chosen death, he will arrive at the stage of spirit. If he
also dies to the stage of spirit and erases his existence in the
Presence of God he will be abiding and will live eternally and will
find everlasting bliss. Mawlana (Jalaluddin Rumi) indicated this
meaning in [these] verses..." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

28. (3907) the Water of Life is hidden in the (Land of) Darkness: this
is based on a Tradition in which the Prophet Muhammad told
about the Prophet Al-Khadir (generally spelled, "Khidhr" or
"Khizr"; the mysterious guide of Moses in Qur'an 18: 60-82), who
searched for the Water of (Eternal) Life and found it in the Land of
Darkness. He drank from it and became immortal. "And you will
understand this after death-- that eternal life is found in darkness.."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

29. (3908) Grow, like the water-lily from the side of the river: "It
means, 'You will grow and thrive in the river of (ego) death and
annihilation [fanâ] until you perceive life and the Water of
(Eternal) Life in death, and you will (then) continue everlastingly.'"
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

30. (3910) he is fleeing in fright from the Beloved-- out of fear of
(losing his) life: "He is running away from the Beloved due to fear
of (losing) his life, and he fears bodily death.... He is a person who
wears the garment of the lovers (of God), yet he is anxious about
(his) ego perishing [fanây-é nafs]-- which is the cause of reaching
to the Beloved. And he is the captive of ego and form, (so) he will
not obtain the (mystical) rapture laZZat] of being erased and
nonexistent (of ego) [maHw wa fanâ]." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

31. (3911) O disgrace (even) to women: means, "You are a disgrace,
not only to men, but to women as well-- since you are more
cowardly than the most fearful of women.

32. (3911) See a hundred thousand souls (joyously) clapping (their)
hands: Nicholson translates similarly, but Anqaravi understood it
to mean "cutting their hands," as did the Egyptian women (who
were cutting fruit) after being amazed at the beauty of Joseph.
(Qur'an 12:30)

33. (3912) The water never flees from the river: "i.e. the water in the
jug (the soul in the body) seeks to return to the river (Universal
Soul)." (Nicholson, Commentary) "If you have found the river of
eternal life and it has brought you to contemplation of the Eternal
Beloved, (then) generously give (away your) animal spirit and
transient life which you keep in the pitcher of the body."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

34. (3913) it is obliterated in it and becomes the river: "In place of his
transient human qualities, Divine qualities will be obtained."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

35. (3914) His attributes are annihilated and his essence (is) enduring:
"No relapse is possible after baqá [= enduringness]." (Nicholson,
Commentary) Nicholson referred here to a similar passage
(Mathnawi III: 3669-3672, which he translated): "The speaker
said, 'There is no dervish in the world; and if there be a dervish,
that dervish is (really) non-existent.' He exists in respect of the
survival of his essence, (but) his attributes have become non-
existent in the attributes of Him (God). Like the flame of a candle
in the presence of the sun, he is (really) nonexistent, (though he is)
existent in (formal) calculation." "(It means) the lover who has
annihilated himself in love for God. His human qualities have been
completely obliterated and his essence has found permanence with
the everlastingness of God." (Anqaravi, Commentary) (3914)
bad-fortuned: Nicholson translated, "ill-favoured."

he will not become decreased or bad-fortuned
36. (3914) he will not become decreased or bad-fortuned: "No relapse
is possible after baq· [= permanence in God] has been attained."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

37. (3915) I have hanged myself on his palm tree (in) apology for this:
"i.e. 'I crucify myself for the Beloved's sake.'" (Nicholson,
Commentary) Nicholson referred to a related passage (Mathnawi
III: 3783), which he translated): "Such a date-palm, which is our
Friend's favour-- since we are robbers, His date-palm is our

38. (3915) that I fled from him: the prime minister ends his speech
here, referring to his beloved king, from whom he fled.


jawâb-goftan-é `âshiq `âZil-ân-râ wa tahdîd-konand-agân-râ

3884 goft man mustasqiy-am âb-am kash-ad
gar-che mê-dân-am ke ham âb-am kosh-ad

3885 hêch mustasqî be-na-g'rêz-ad ze-âb
gar dô Sad bâr-ash kon-ad mât-o kharâb

gar be-y-âmas-ad ma-râ dast-o shekam
`ishq-é âb az man na-khwâh-ad gasht kam

gôy-am ân-gah ke be-pors-and az buTûn
kâshakî baHr-am rawân bûdy darûn

khîk-é eshkam gô be-dar az mawj-é âb
gar be-mîr-am, hast marg-am mustaTâb

man ba-har jâyê ke bîn-am âb-é jô
rashk-am ây-ad, bûd-amy man jây-é ô

3890 dast chûn daff-o shekam ham-chûn dohol
Tabl-é `ishq-é âb mê-kôb-am chô gol

gar be-rêz-ad khûn-am ân rûHu 'l-amîn
jur`a-jur`a khûn kwor-am ham-chûn zamîn

chûn zamîn-o chûn janîn khûn-khwâra-am
tâ ke `âshiq gashta-am în kâra-am

shab hamê jôsh-am dar âtash ham-chô dêg
rôz tâ shab khûn-khwor-am mânand-é rêg

man pashîmân-am ke makr-angêkht-am
az murâd-é khashm-é ô be-g'rêkhtam

3895 gô be-rân bar jân-é mast-am khashm-é khwêsh
`îd-é qurbân ô-st-o `âshiq gâw-mêsh

gâw agar khosp-ad-o gar chêzê khwor-ad
bahr-é `îd-o ZabH-é ô mê-parwar-ad

gâw-é mûsà dân ma-râ jân-dâda'yê
juzw-juzw-am Hashr-é har âzâda'yê

gâw-é mûsà bûd qurbân-gashta'ê
kam-tarîn juzw-ash Hayât-é koshta'ê

bar jahîd ân koshta z-âsêb-ash ze-jâ
dar khiTâb-é iZribû-hu ba`Zi-hâ

3900 yâ kirâm-î iZbaHû haZâ 'l-baqar
in arad-tum Hashra arwâHi 'n-naZar

az jamâdî mord-am-o nâmê shod-am
w-az namâ mord-am ba-Haywân bar zad-am

mord-am az Hawânî-wo âdam shod-am
pas che tars-am, kay ze-mordan kam shod-am?

Hamla-yé degar be-mîr-am az bashar
tâ bar âr-am az malâ'ik parr-o sar

w-az malak ham bây-ad-am jastan ze jô
kullu shay-in hâlik illâ wajha-hu

3905 bâr-é dêgar az malak qurbân shaw-am
ân-che andar wahm n-ây-ad ân shaw-am

pas `adam gard-am `adam chûn arghanûn
gôy-ad-am ke 'innâ 'ilay-hi râji`ûn

marg dân ân-k ittifâq-é ummat-ast
k-âb-é Haywânî nehân dar Zulmat-ast

ham-chô nîlôfar be-rô z-în Tarf-é jô
ham-chô mustasqî HarîS-o marg-jô

marg-é ô âb-ast-o ô jôyây-é âb
mê-khwar-ad, wa 'llâhu 'a`lam bi 'S-Sawâb

3910 ay forsorda `âshiq-é nangîn-namad
k-ô ze-bîm-é jân ze-jânân mê-ram-ad

sôy-é têgh-é `ishq-ash ay nang-é zan-ân
Sad hazâr-ân jân negar dast-ak zanân

jôy dîd-î, kôza andar jôy rêz
âb-râ az jôy kay bâsh-ad gorêz?

âb-é kôza chûn dar âb-é jô shaw-ad
maHw gard-ad dar way-o jô ô shaw-ad

waSf-é ô fânî shod-o Zât-ash baqâ
z-în sapas na kam shaw-ad na bad-liqâ

3915 khwêsh-râ bar nakhl-é ô âwêkht-am
`aZr-é ân-râ ke az-ô be-g'rêkht-am

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)