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

Mathnawi III: 4664-4667, 4677-4693

The beloved's soothing of the unconscious lover until he
returned to consciousness

4664 The King of Bukhara was drawing him, out of kindness,
from unconsciousness into (being able to express) clear

4665 The king shouted into his ear, "O beggar, (hold) open
(your) skirt!1 (For) I have brought you scatterings of gold.

"Your spirit which was trembling in separation (from)
me-- why did it flee in terror when I came to protect it?

4667 "O you who have experienced (extreme) heat and cold in
separation (from) me, come back to yourself from
unconsciousness-- and return!"

. . . . . . .

4677 (The King of Bukhara) held his hand, saying, "This one,
whose breath has gone, will come (back to life) the moment I
grant him breath.2

"When this dead body becomes living by means of Me,3 it
will be My spirit which brings (his) face toward Me.

"I will make him great and powerful by means of this
spirit.4 (And), with the spirit which I will give him, he
will see My Generosity."5

4680 (For) the spirit of one6 who is not an intimate friend
cannot see the face of the Beloved. However, the one whose
origin is from His district (can see it).

(He said),"I breath into this friend (in a manner)
resembling (that of) a butcher: so that his most excellent
inward part may leave the skin."7

(And) he said, "O spirit (which has) fled from
affliction, We have opened the door of Our Union--8 (so) be

"O you (whose) drunkenness and loss of self (is caused
by) Our Self!9 O you (whose) being (is) always (caused) by
Our Being!

"Listen, (for in) this moment, I will tell you once more
the ancient secrets,10 without (the need for) lips.

4685 "Since those lips (of yours) are fleeing in terror from
this Breath (of Mine),11 it is (instead) breathed [invisibly]
on the lip of a hidden "river."12

"In this moment, open the earless ear13 for the sake of
(being able to hear) the secret of (the verse), 'God acts as
He wills.'"14

When he began to hear the invitation to Union, the dead
man gradually began to move.

(The lover of God) is not less than the earth which, due
to the amorous playfulness of the morning breeze (during
Spring), dresses in green (and) raises up (its) head after

(And) he is not less than sperm fluid which, due to (the
Divine) speech,16 generates (beautiful) Josephs17 (with) faces
like the sun.

4690 He is not less than a wind18 (which), due to the command
(of the Divine word) "Be!"19 (generates), in the wombs (of
birds), peacocks and sweet-voiced birds.

(And) he is not less than the rocky mountain which, due
to the (miraculous) generation of a female camel,20 gave
birth to a camel foal.

Pass on from all of this. Didn't the fundamental source
of non-existence give birth to a (whole) world?21 And it will
generate (in the future as well), moment by moment.

4693 (The prime minister) jumped up, trembled, and whirled
(around) once or twice very joyously. (Then) he fell down in
obeisance (before the king).21

--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" (, 4/19/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (4665) (hold) open (your) skirt: refers to holding up
the hems of the robe, or a type of long skirt worn by men,
in order to receive scatterings of gold coins. "(It means),
'I'm giving you the gold of Union. Where is the skirt of
your mind and understanding [in which I can pour it]?'"
(Anqaravi, a 17th century Turkish commentator, translated
here from a Persian translation)

2. (4677) will come (back to life) the moment I grant him
breath: Nicholson translated, "will (only) then come (to
life) when I give him (spiritual) breath." Since God is
speaking here, this refers to a verse which mentions how God
breathed into Adam (also meaning mankind in general) of His
spirit (Qur'an 15:29). "The intended meaning of 'breath'
[dam] is 'the Divine Breath.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

3. (4678) When this dead body becomes living by means of
Me: "(The meaning is), 'He will become living together with
life and nearness to Me.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary) Here, it
is God speaking, not just the king-- a common device used by

4. (4679) I will make him great and powerful by means of
this spirit: Nicholson translated, "By means of this spirit
I make him possessed of high estate." According to the
Qur'an, God helps true believers by strengthening them with
a spirit [rûH] from Him (58:22). And, similarly, he
strengthened the Prophet Jesus with a holy spirit (2:87,
253). The latter is usually interpreted as the same as the
Archangel Gabriel. "(It means), 'A spirit, which is worthy
and deserving of a gift of favor, is the Holy Spirit-- which
is the Divine Spirit and the Divine Breath.'" (Anqaravi,

5. (4679) with the spirit which I will give him, he will
see My Generosity: Nicholson translated, "(only) the spirit
that I give sees (experiences) My bounty."

6. (4680) (For) the spirit of one: Nicholson included this
line as part of the king's speech. However, it makes more
sense as Rumi's commentary, since he often interrupts
stories and dialogues with interpretations and related

7. (4681) so that his most excellent inward part may leave
the skin: "The Divine inspiration which strips all carnal
attributes from the soul is compared to the butcher's
practice of moistening with his breath the skin of a
slaughtered sheep while flaying it." (Nicholson, Commentary)
Nicholson also referred to Mathnawi VI: 1551 and to a couple
of verses from Rumi's Divan [= Ghazal 765, lines 8002-03]).

"It means, 'I increase his being with the savor of
eternal life and the Holy Spirit, so that his subtle and
fine inward part may leave (his outward) skin.'" (Anqaravi,

8. (4682) We have opened the door of Our Union: here, God
is speaking with the "royal plural" of Divine Majesty, as
God sometimes speaks in the Qur'an. The word "union" [waSl]
often occurs in sufi poetry means nearness [qurb] to God.
"Although this noble verse and the fine verses preceding it
are from the tongue of the King of Bukhara, yet they are
(expressions) of pure words from Holy Reality [HaZrat-é
Haqîqat] in the moment of union with the lover afflicted by
his separation." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

9. (4683) O you (whose) drunkenness and loss of self (is
caused by) Our Self: means spiritual ecstasy, mystical
annihilation of self [bê-khwadî], as well as the state of
unconsciousness in the story which resulted when the
ambassador fainted. "(It means), 'Every time that We become
near to you, you become the drunken lover of Us, (and) you
make your superficial existence to be annihilated.'"
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

10. (4684) the ancient secrets [râz-hây-é kohna]: "God Most
High says to His lover, 'Now I will tell you, without (need
of) lips and mouth, the eternal secrets....' (meaning)
inspirations of knowledge from the Divine Presence" [`alûm-é
ladunî-- a reference to Qur'an 18:65]. (Anqaravi,

11. (4685) Since those lips (of yours) are fleeing in terror
from this Breath (of Mine): Nicholson translated, "(I tell
thee silently) because those (bodily) lips are fleeing from
(are unable to apprehend) this Breath (Word)..." "'Since
those bodily lips are fleeing from this Breath of Mercy,'
meaning, 'they have no ability to show understanding of the
secrets and truths of the Breath of Mercy.'" (Anqaravi,

12. (4685) It is (instead) breathed [invisibly] on the lip
of a hidden "river": the "lip" of a river is an idiom
meaning "river bank." "The secrets of this Breath... meaning
the knowledge of mysteries of the Divine Blowing and the
Breath of Mercy. And the human spirit is really like a
river. And the heart and intellect, connected with the river
of spirit, are compared to the banks and sides (of the
river)." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

13. (4686) open the earless ear: "It means, 'Abandon the
outward ear (and) open the ear of understanding... meaning
for the sake of understanding the secrets of the Holy
Absolute (Divine) Will.' .... However, most of human
understanding cannot understand this meaning also."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

14. (4686) 'God acts as He wills': Qur'an 3: 40, modified
for metric purposes.

15. (4688) dresses in green (and) raises up (its) head after
extinction: the word translated as "extinction" [fanâ] here
is also a technical term in sufism. Therefore, this
description of plants blooming in the desert after
extinction also symbolizes the mystic's being revived,
following annihilation of self, to a flourishing state of
"enduring" [baqâ] in lasting consciousness of God.

16. (4689) he is not less than sperm fluid which, due to
(the Divine) speech: "(It means), in hearing the Speech of
God, meaning the sperm from hearing the Speech of (the
Divine Command )'Be!' gives birth to (beautiful) Josephs..."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

17. (4689) (beautiful) Josephs: the Prophet Joseph was said
to be so handsome, that he was compared to an angel (Qur'an

18. (4690) a wind: refers to the semen of birds. "The semen
of birds was believed to consist of air." (Nicholson,
Footnote) "This biological theory may be derived from
Aristotle's story of the vulture impregnated by the wind."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

19. (4690) the Divine word) "Be!: a term which occurs in a
number of verses in the Qur'an, such as, "And when He
decrees a thing to be, he says to it, 'Be!', and it is."

20. (4691) a female camel: "The prophet Sálih, who was sent
[= by God] to the people of Thamúd, miraculously caused a
she-camel big with young to come forth from a rock."
(Nicholson, Footnote) This is a legendary story based on
Qur'an 11:63-65. "The Thamûd people wanted a miracle from
Hazrat-i Sâlih and they said, 'O Sâlih, if you are truly a
prophet, make a camel emerge from this rock for us.' And a
single camel emerged from the rock, (and in) that very
moment it gave birth to another she-camel." (Anqaravi,

21. (4692) Didn't the fundamental source of non-existence
give birth to a (whole) world: Nicholson translated, "the
substance of non-existence." It refers to the invisible
realm of non-existence [`adam] from which all existent
things emerge. "(It means), 'Is it not more unusual than
these unusual things, and more wonderful than these wonders
[= mentioned in the previous verses], that such a very great
world was generated from the fundamental source of
non-existence, and is now (continuously) being generated
moment by moment?'"

22. (4693) he fell down in obeisance (before the king): refers
to a prostration [sujûd] of obeisance expressing deferential
respect toward a king. It is different in intention and form
than a prostration of worship toward God. "It means a
prostration of gratitude [sajda-yé shukr] and a formal
gesture done from (an attitude of) obeisance and obedience."
(Anqaravi, Commentary)


nawâkhtan-é ma`shûq `âshiq-é bê-hôsh-râ tâ ba-hôsh bâz ây-ad

4664 mê-kashîd az bê-hôshiy-ash dar bayân
andak-andak az karam Sadr-é jahân

4665 bâng zad dar gôsh-é ô shah k-ây gadâ
zar-niSâr âward-am-at, dâman goshâ

jân-é tô k-andar firâq-am mê-Tapîd
chun-ke zenhâr-ash rasîd-am, chûn ramîd?

4667 ay ba-dîda dar firâq-am garm-o sard
bâ khwad â az bê-khwadî-wo bâz gard

. . . . . . .

4677 dast-é ô be-g'reft k-în rafta dam-ash
ân-gahê ây-ad ke man dam bakhsh-am-ash

chûn ba-man zenda shaw-ad în morda-tan
jân-é man bâsh-ad ke rô âr-ad ba-man

man kon-am ô-râ az-în jân muHtasham
jân ke man bakhsh-am, be-bîn-ad bakhshesh-am

4680 jân-é nâ-maHram na-bîn-ad rôy-é dôst
joz ham-ân jân k-aSl-é ô az kôy-é ô-st

dar dam-am qaSSâb-wâr în dôst-râ
tâ hel-ad ân maghz-é naghz-ash pôst-râ

goft ay jân-é ramîda az balâ
waSl-é mâ-râ dar goshâd-ém, aS-Salâ

ay khwad-é mâ bê-khwadî-wo mastiy-at
ay ze-hast-é mâ hamâra hastiy-at

bâ tô bê-lab în zaman man naw ba-naw
râz-hây-é kohna gôy-am, mê-shenaw

4685 z-ân-ke ân lab-hâ az-în dam mê-ram-ad
bar lab-é jôy-é nehân bar mê-dam-ad

gôsh-ê bê-gôshî dar-în dam bar goshâ
bahr-é râz-é yaf`alu 'llâh mâ yashâ

chûn Salây-é waSl be-sh'nîdan gereft
andak-andak morda jonbîdan gereft

na kam az khâk-ast k-az `ishwa-yé Sabâ
sabz pôsh-ad, sar bar âr-ad az fanâ

kam ze-âb-ê nuTfa na-b'w-ad k-az khiTâb
yûsuf-ân zây-and rokh chûn âftâb

4690 kam ze-bâdê nêst shod az amr-é kon
dar raHim Tâwûs-o morgh-é khwash-sokhon

kam ze-kôh-é sang na-b'w-ad k-az wilâd
nâqa'yê k-ân nâqa nâqa-zâd zâd

z-în hama be-g'Zar, na ân mâya-yé `adam
`âlamê zâd-o be-zây-ad dam ba-dam

4693 bar jahîd-o bar Tapîd-o shâd-shâd
yak dô charkhê zad, sujûd andar fotâd

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)