Rumi rarely wrote down his own poetry. The six books of poetry in the Mathnawi were written entirely by Rumi, who would compose and dictate the poetry, and his student Husam Chulabi, who would write and edit it.
According to the BBC: “Rumi's major works consist of two epic poems. The first is the Diwani Shamsi Tabrizi, named in honour of his friend Shams. It is often abbreviated to Diwan. It consists of about 40,000 verses in a vibrant and energetic style. It has been suggested that the Diwan represents Rumi's feelings while in a dance-induced spiritual state. At the end of the Diwan is a collection of poems of four lines, called quatrains. It is believed that about 1,600 can be correctly attributed to Rumi. The Mathnawi is his other seminal work. It consists of 25,000 verses, in six books of poetry. The Mathnawi was written at the same time as the Diwan, and was probably intended to place the Diwan within the wider context of Islam. It is regarded as an explanation of some aspects of the Qur'an, placed within a more Sufi context. [Source: BBC, September 1, 2009 |::|]
“Indeed, the problem with many translations of Rumi's work is the separation of his poems on love from his belief in God and Islam. Many translations of his work have become mere love poems, and Rumi himself has become known as a love poet. Love is an overwhelming part of Rumi's work, but for Rumi, this love was a higher love for God, and not for humans. Rumi wrote in Quatrain, No. 1173: “I am the servant of the Qur'an as long as I have life. I am the dust on the path of Muhammad, the Chosen one. If anyone quotes anything except this from my sayings, I am quit of him and outraged by these words.”
William C Chittick wrote in “The Sufi Path of Love”: “Although the Diwan contains many short didactic passages, on the whole it appears as a collection of individual and separate crystallisations and concretisations of spiritual states undergone on the path to God. The overall 'feeling' of the Diwan is one of spiritual intoxication and ecstatic love. The Mathnawi is a commentary upon these mystical states and stations. It places them within the overall context of Islamic and Sufi teachings and practice. And it corrects the mistaken impression that one might receive by studying different poems in the Diwan in isolation and separating them from the wider context of Sufism and Islam. ) The Sufi Path of Love, William C Chittick |::|
Rumi's poetry can be passionate, spiritual and sexual. He often wrote about the masteries of human desire and the ecstacy of love. In Daring Enough to Finish he wrote:
Face that lights my face, you spin
Intelligence into these particles
I am. Your wind shivers my tree
My mouth tasse sweet with your name
In it. You make me dance daring enough
To finish. No more timidity!
Let fruit fall and wind turn my roots up
In the air, done with patient waiting. [Translated by Coleman Barks]
Rumi eschewed ritual and emphasized tolerance. In Spiritual Couplets, one of the most influential pieces of Islamic writing, he famously wrote:
Come! Come ! Whoever, whatever you may be, come!
Heathen, idolatrous or fire worshipper, come!
Even if you deny your oaths a hundred times, come!
Our door is the door of hope, come! Come as you are!
Websites and Resources: Islamic, Arabic and Persian Literature Islamic and Arabic Literature at Cornell University guides.library.cornell.edu/ArabicLiterature ; Internet Islamic History Sourcebook fordham.edu/halsall/islam/islamsbook ; Wikipedia article on Islamic Literature Wikipedia ; Wikipedia article on Arabic Literature Wikipedia ; Wikipedia article on Persian Literature Wikipedia ; Persian literature at Encyclopædia Britannica britannica.com ; Persian Literature & Poetry at parstimes.com /www.parstimes.com ; Arabic Poetry web.archive.org ; Arabic Poetry from Princeton princeton.edu/~arabic/poetry ; Thousand and One Nights wollamshram.ca/1001 ; 1001 Nights fairytalez.com ; Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Burton, gutenberg.org ; Islamic Stories islamicstories.com
Sorrow Turned to Joy
"He who extracts the rose from the thorn
Can also turn this winter into spring.
He who exalts the heads of the cypresses
Is able also out of sadness to bring joy."
"Trust in God, yet tie the camel's leg.'
Hear the adage, 'The worker is the friend of God';
Through trust in Providence neglect not to use means.
Go, O Fatalists, practise trust with self-exertion,
Exert yourself to attain your objects, bit by bit.
In order to succeed, strive and exert yourselves;
If you strive not for your objects, ye are fools."
Every night Thou freest our spirits from the body
And its snare, making them pure as rased tablets.
Every night spirits are released from this cage,
And set free, neither lording it nor lorded over.
At night prisoners are unaware of their prison,
At night kings are unaware of their majesty.
The Kingly Soul
The kingly soul lays waste the body,
And after its destruction he builds it anew.
Happy the soul who for love of God
Has lavished family, wealth, and goods!—
Has destroyed its house to find the Hidden Treasure,
And with that Treasure has rebuilt it in fairer sort;
Has dammed up the stream and cleansed the channel,
And then turned a fresh stream into the channel.
No sickness worse than fancying thyself perfect
Can infect thy soul, O arrogant, misguided one!
Shed many tears of blood from eyes and heart,
That this self-satisfaction may be driven out.
The fate of Iblis lay in saying, "I am better than He,"
And this same weakness lurks in the souls of all creatures. [Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., “The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East”, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VIII: Medieval Persia, p. 111-130]
On A Valetudinarian
So careful is Isa, and anxious to last,
So afraid of himself is he grown,
He swears through two nostrils the breath goes too fast,
And he's trying to breathe through but one.
On A Miser
"Hang her, a thoughtless, wasteful fool,
She scatters corn where'er she goes"—
Quoth Hassan, angry at his mule,
That dropped a dinner to the crows.
—Ibn Al Rumi
Rumi Poems on Love
The Flame of Love
How long wilt thou dwell on words and empty shows?
A burning heart is what I want; consort with burning!
Kindle in thy heart the flame of Love,
And burn up utterly thoughts and fine expressions.
O Moses! the lovers of fair rites are one class,
They whose hearts and souls burn with Love, another.
A woman bore many children in succession, but none of them lived beyond the age of three or four months. In great distress she cried to God, and then beheld in a vision the beautiful gardens of Paradise, and many fair mansions therein, and upon one of these mansions she read her own name inscribed. And a voice from heaven informed her that God would accept the sorrows she had endured in lieu of her blood shed in holy war, as, owing to her sex, she was unable to go out to battle like the men. On looking again, the woman beheld in Paradise all the children she had lost, and she cried, "O Lord! they were lost to me, but safe with Thee!"
The Optimistic Rose
In this tale there is a warning for thee, O Soul,
That thou mayest acquiesce in God's ordinances,
And be wary and not doubt God's benevolence,
When sudden misfortune befalls thee.
Let others grow pale from fear of ill fortune,
Do thou smile like the rose at loss and gain;
For the rose, though its petals be torn asunder,
Still smiles on, and it is never cast down.
The Music of Love
Hail to thee, then, O Love, sweet madness!
Thou who healest all our infirmities!
Who art the Physician of our pride and self-conceit!
Who art our Plato and our Galen!
Love exalts our earthly bodies to heaven,
And makes the very hills to dance with joy!
O lover, 'twas Love that gave life to Mount Sinai,
When "it quaked, and Moses fell down in a swoon."
Did my Beloved only touch me with His lips,
I too, like a flute, would burst out into melody.
Nothing is bitterer than severance from Thee,
Without Thy shelter there is naught but perplexity.
Our worldly goods rob us of our heavenly goods,
Our body rends the garment of our soul.
Our hands, as it were, prey on our feet;
Without reliance on Thee how can we live? [Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., “The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East”, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VIII: Medieval Persia, p. 111-130]
Where Love Is
A damsel said to her lover, "O fond youth,
You have visited many cities in your travels;
Which of those cities seems most delightful to you?"
He made answer, "The city wherein my love dwells,
In whatever nook my queen alights;
Though it be as the eye of a needle, 'tis a wide plain;
Wherever her Yusuf-like face shines as a moon,
Though it be the bottom of a well, 'tis Paradise.
With thee, my love, hell itself were heaven.
With thee a prison would be a rose-garden.
With thee hell would be a mansion of delight,
Without thee lilies and roses would be as flames of fire!"
No lover ever seeks union with his beloved,
But his beloved is also seeking union with him.
But the lover's love makes his body lean,
While the Beloved's love makes her fair and lusty.
When in this heart the lightning spark of love arises,
Be sure this Love is reciprocated in that heart.
When the Love of God arises in thy heart,
Without doubt God also feels love for thee.
The Love of the soul is for Life and the Living One,
Because its origin is the Soul not bound to place.
The Love of the soul is for wisdom and knowledge,
That of the body for houses, gardens, and vineyards;
The love of the soul is for things exalted on high,
That of the body for acquisition of goods and food.
The Love, too, of Him on high is directed to the soul:
Know this, for "Be loves them that love Him."
The sum is this: that whoso seeks another,
The soul of that other who is sought inclines to him.
O Israfil of the resurrection-day of Love!
O Love, Love, and heart's desire of Love!
Let thy first boon to me be this:
To lend thine ear to my orisons,
Though thou knowest my condition clearly,
O protector of slaves, listen to my speech.
A thousand times, O prince incomparable,
Has my reason taken flight in desire to see thee,
And to hear thee and to listen to thy words,
And to behold thy life-giving smiles.
Thy inclining thine ear to my supplications
Is as a caress to my misguided soul. [Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., “The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East”, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VIII: Medieval Persia, p. 111-130]
When the rose has faded and the garden is withered,
The song of the nightingale is no longer to be heard.
The Beloved is all in all, the lover only veils Him;
The Beloved is all that lives, the lover a dead thing.
When the lover feels no longer love's quickening,
He becomes like a bird who has lost its wings. Alas!
How can I retain my senses about me,
When the Beloved shows not the Light of his countenance?
Love is the astrolabe of God's mysteries.
A lover may hanker after this love or that love,
But at the last he is drawn to the King of Love.
However much we describe and explain Love,
When we fall in love we are ashamed of our words.
Explanation by the tongue makes most things clear,
But Love unexplained is better.
In one 'twas said, "Leave power and weakness alone;
Whatever withdraws thine eyes from God is an idol."
In one 'twas said, "Quench not thy earthly torch,
That it may be a light to lighten mankind.
If thou neglectest regard and care for it,
Thou wilt quench at midnight the lamp of Union."
Why dost Thou flee from the cries of us on earth?
Why pourest Thou sorrow on the heart of the sorrowful?
O Thou who, as each new morn dawns from the east,
Art seen uprising anew, like a bright fountain!
What excuse makest Thou for Thy witcheries?
O Thou whose lips are sweeter than sugar,
Thou that ever renewest the life of this old world,
Hear the cry of this lifeless body and heart!
Mustafa became beside himself at that sweet call,
His prayer failed on "the night of the early morning halt."
He lifted not head from that blissful sleep,
So that his morning prayer was put off 'till noon.
On that, his wedding night, in the presence of his bride,
His pure soul attained to kiss her hands.
Love and mistress are both veiled and hidden.
Impute it not a fault if I call Him "Bride." [Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., “The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East”, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VIII: Medieval Persia, p. 111-130]
To a Lady Weeping
When I beheld thy blue eyes shine
Through the bright drop that pity drew,
I saw beneath those tears of thine
A blue-ey'd violet bathed in dew.
The violet ever scents the gale,
Its hues adorn the fairest wreath,
But sweetest through a dewy veil
Its colors glow, its odors breathe.
And thus thy charms in brightness rise—
When wit and pleasure round thee play,
When mirth sits smiling in thine eyes,
Who but admires their sprightly ray?
But when through pity's flood they gleam,
Who but must love their softened beam?
Lover's Cry to the Beloved
"My back is broken by the conflict of my thoughts;
O Beloved One, come and stroke my head in mercy!
The palm of Thy hand on my head gives me rest,
Thy hand is a sign of Thy bounteous providence.
Remove not Thy shadow from my head,
I am afflicted, afflicted, afflicted!
Sleep has deserted my eyes
Through my longing for Thee, O Envy of cypresses!
O take my life, Thou art the Source of Life!
For apart from Thee I am wearied of my life.
I am a lover well versed in lovers' madness,
I am weary of learning and sense." [Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., “The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East”, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VIII: Medieval Persia, p. 111-130]
Gifts of the Beloved
Where will you find one more liberal than God?
He buys the worthless rubbish which is your wealth,
He pays you the Light that illumines your heart.
He accepts these frozen and lifeless bodies of yours,
And gives you a Kingdom beyond what you dream of,
He takes a few drops of your tears,
And gives you the Divine Fount sweeter than sugar.
He takes your sighs fraught with grief and sadness,
And for each sigh gives rank in heaven as interest.
In return for the sigh-wind that raised tear-clouds,
God gave Abraham the title of "Father of the Faithful."
Thou art hidden from us, though the heavens are filled
With Thy Light, which is brighter than sun and moon!
Thou art hidden, yet revealest our hidden secrets!
Thou art the Source that causes our rivers to flow.
Thou art hidden in Thy essence, but seen by Thy bounties.
Thou art like the water, and we like the millstone.
Thou art like the wind, and we like the dust;
The wind is unseen, but the dust is seen by all.
Thou art the Spring, and we the sweet green garden;
Spring is not seen, though its gifts are seen.
Thou art as the Soul, we as hand and foot;
Soul instructs hand and foot to hold and take.
Thou art as Reason, we like the tongue;
'Tis reason that teaches the tongue to speak.
Thou art as Joy, and we are laughing;
The laughter is the consequence of the joy.
Our every motion every moment testifies,
For it proves the presence of the Everlasting God. [Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., “The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East”, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VIII: Medieval Persia, p. 111-130]
Rumi on Male Friendship
The great 13th century mystic poet Jalaluddin Rumi wrote:
" Every form you see has its archetype in the placeless world....
From the moment you came into the world of being
A ladder was placed before you that you might escape (ascend ) .
First you were mineral, later you turned to plant,
Then you became an animal: how should this be a secret to you ?
Afterwards you were made man, with knowledge, reason, faith;
Behold the body, which is a portion of the dustpit, how perfect it has grownig
When you have travelled on from man, you will doubtless become an angel;
After that you are done with earth: your station is in heaven.
Pass again even from angelhood: enter thatocean,
That your drop may become a sea which is a hundred seas of ' Oman.' "
From the Divani Shamsi Tabriz of Jalalu-ddin Rumi, trans. by R. H. Nicholson.
“Twere better that the spirit which wears not true love as a garment
Had not been: its being is but shame.
Be drunken in love, for love is all that exists.
Dismiss cares and be utterly clear of heart,
Like the face of a mirror, without image or picture.
When it becomes clear of images, all images are contained in it."
Happy the moment when we are seated in the palace, thou and I,
With two forms and with two figures, but with one soul, thou and I."
"Once a man came and knocked at the door of his friend.
His friend said, ' Who art thou, O faithfulone ? '
He said, "Tis I.' He answered, ' There is no admittance.
There is no room for the raw at my well-cooked feast.
Naught but fire of separation and absence
Can cook the raw one and free him from hypocrisy I
Since thy self has not yet left thee,
Thou must be burned in fiery flames.'
The poor man went away, and for one whole year
Journeyed burning with grief for his friend's absence.
His heart burned till it was cooked; then he went again
And drew near to the house of his friend.
He knocked at the door in fear and trepidation
Lest some careless word should fall from his lips.
His friend shouted, ' Who is that at the door? '
He answered, ' 'Tis thou who art at the door, O beloved I '
The friend said, ' Since 'tis I, let me come in,
There is not room for two I's in one house."'
[Source: the Masnavi of Jalalu-ddin Rumi, trans. by E. H. Whinfield]
Rumi Poems About God and Religion
'Tis God's Light that illumines the senses' light,
That is the meaning of "Light upon light."
The senses' light draws us earthward.
God's Light calls us heavenward.
When love of God kindles a flame in the inward man,
He burns, and is freed from effects.
He has no need of signs to assure him of Love,
For Love casts its own Light up to heaven.
The Believer's Heart
The Prophet said that God has declared,
"I am not contained in aught above or below,
I am not contained in earth or sky, or even
In highest heaven. Know this for a surety, O beloved!
Yet am I contained in the believer's heart!
If ye seek Me, search in such hearts!"
The knowledge which is not of Him is a burden;
Knowledge which comes not immediately from Him
Endures no longer than the rouge of the tire-woman.
Nevertheless, if you bear this burden in a right spirit
'Twill be removed, and you will obtain joy.
See you bear not that burden out of vainglory,
Then you will behold a store of True Knowledge within.
When you mount the steed of this True Knowledge,
Straightway the burden will fall from your back.
The True Mosque
Fools laud and magnify the mosque,
While they strive to oppress holy men of heart.
But the former is mere form, the latter spirit and truth.
The only true mosque is that in the hearts of saints.
The mosque that is built in the hearts of the saints
Is the place of worship of all, for God dwells there.
So long as the hearts of the saints are not afflicted,
God never destroys the nation.
All Religions are One
In the adorations and benedictions of righteous men
The praises of all the prophets are kneaded together.
All their praises are mingled into one stream,
All the vessels are emptied into one ewer.
Because He that is praised is, in fact, only One.
In this respect all religions are only one religion.
Because all praises are directed toward God's Light,
These various forms and figures are borrowed from it.
[Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., “The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East”, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VIII: Medieval Persia, p. 111-130]
Rumi Poems About the Hypocrisy of Conventional Religion
The Wisdom of the Weak
"O friends, God has given me inspiration.
Oftentimes strong counsel is suggested to the weak.
The wit taught by God to the bee
Is withheld from the lion and the wild ass.
It fills its cells with liquid sweets,
For God opens the door of this knowledge to it.
The skill taught by God to the silkworm
Is a learning beyond the reach of the elephant.
The earthly Adam was taught of God names,
So that his glory reached the seventh heaven.
He laid low the name and fame of the angels,
Yet blind indeed are they whom God dooms to doubt!"
Blood is impure, yet its stain is removed by water;
But that impurity of ignorance is more lasting,
Seeing that without the blessed water of God
It is not banished from the man who is subject to it.
O that thou wouldst turn thy face to thy own prayers,
And say, "Ah! my prayers are as defective as my being; O requite me good for evil!"
"Pray in this wise and allay your difficulties:
'Give us good in the house of our present world,
And give us good in the house of our next world.
Make our path pleasant as a garden,
And be Thou, O Holy One, our goal!'"
Saint and Hypocrite
Watch the face of each one, regard it well,
It may be by serving thou wilt recognize Truth's face.
As there are many demons with men's faces,
It is wrong to join hand with every one.
When the fowler sounds his decoy whistle,
That the birds may be beguiled by that snare,
The birds hear that call simulating a bird's call,
And, descending from the air, find net and knife.
So vile hypocrites steal the language of Dervishes,
In order to beguile the simple with their trickery.
The works of the righteous are light and heat,
The works of the evil treachery and shamelessness.
They make stuffed lions to scare the simple,
They give the title of Muhammad to false Musailima.
But Musailima retained the name of "Liar,"
And Muhammad that of "Sublimest of beings."
That wine of God (the righteous) yields a perfume of musk;
Other wine (the evil) is reserved for penalties and pains.
Harshness and Adoration
Let me then, I say, make complaint
Of the severity of that Fickle Fair One.
I cry, and my cries sound sweet in His ear;
He requires from the two worlds cries and groans.
How shall I not wail under His chastening hand?
How shall I not be in the number of those bewitched by Him?
How shall I be other than night without His day?
Without the vision of His face that illumes the day?
His bitters are very sweets to my soul,
I am enamored of my own grief and pain,
For it makes me well-pleasing to my peerless King.
I use the dust of my grief as salve for my eyes,
That my eyes, like seas, may team with pearls.
The Divine Absorption
Do me justice, O Thou who art the glory of the just,
Who art the throne, and I the lintel of Thy door!
But, in sober truth, where are throne and doorway?
Where are "We" and "I"? There where our Beloved is!
O Thou, who art exempt from "Us" and "Me,"
Who pervadest the spirits of all men and women;
When man and woman become one, Thou art that One!
When their union is dissolved, lo! Thou abidest!
Thou hast made these "Us" and "Me" for this purpose,
To wit, to play chess with them by Thyself.
When Thou shalt become one entity with "Us" and "You,"
Then wilt Thou show true affection for these lovers.
When these "We" and "Ye" shall all become One Soul,
Then they will be lost and absorbed in the "Beloved." [Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., “The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East”, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VIII: Medieval Persia, p. 111-130]
He Knows About It All
He who is from head to foot a perfect rose or lily,
To him spring brings rejoicing.
The useless thorn desires the autumn,
That autumn may associate itself with the garden;
And hide the rose's beauty and the thorn's shame,
That men may not see the bloom of the one and the other's shame;
That common stone and pure ruby may appear all as one.
True, the Gardener knows the difference in the autumn,
But the sight of One is better than the world's sight.
Whoso recognizes and confesses his own defects
Is hastening in the way that leads to Perfection!
But he advances not toward the Almighty
Who fancies himself to be perfect.
Whatsoever is perceived by sense He annuls,
But He stablishes that which is hidden from the senses.
The lover's love is visible, his Beloved hidden.
The Friend is absent, the distraction He causes present.
Renounce these affections for outward forms,
Love depends not on outward form or face.
Whatever is beloved is not a mere empty form,
Whether your beloved be of earth or heaven.
Whatever is the form you have fallen in love with—
Why do you forsake it the moment life leaves it?
The form is still there; whence then this disgust at it?
Ah! lover, consider well what is really your beloved.
If a thing perceived by outward senses is the beloved,
Then all who retain senses must still love it;
And since Love increases constancy,
How can constancy fail while form abides?
But the truth is, the sun's beams strike the wall,
And the wall only reflects that borrowed light.
Why give your heart to mere stones, O simpleton?
Go! Seek the Source of Light which shineth alway! [Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., “The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East”, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VIII: Medieval Persia, p. 111-130]
Religion of Love
The sect of lovers is distinct from all others,
Lovers have a religion and a faith of their own.
Though the ruby has no stamp, what matters it?
Love is fearless in the midst of the sea of fear.
Pain is a treasure, for it contains mercies;
The kernel is soft when the rind is scraped off.
O brother, the place of darkness and cold
Is the fountain of Life and the cup of ecstasy.
So also is endurance of pain and sickness and disease.
For from abasement proceeds exaltation.
The spring seasons are hidden in the autumns,
And the autumns are charged with springs.
If spiritual manifestations had been sufficient,
The creation of the world had been needless and vain.
If spiritual thought were equivalent to love of God,
Outward forms of temples and prayers would not exist.
"We bow our heads before His edict and ordinance,
We stake precious life to gain His favor.
While the thought of the Beloved fills our hearts,
All our work is to do Him service and spend life for Him.
Wherever He kindles His destructive torch,
Myriads of lovers' souls are burnt therewith.
The lovers who dwell within the sanctuary
Are moths burnt with the torch of the Beloved's face.
"O heart, haste thither, for God will shine upon you,
And seem to you a sweet garden instead of a terror.
He will infuse into your soul a new Soul,
So as to fill you, like a goblet, with wine.
Take up your abode in His Soul!
Take up your abode in heaven, O bright full moon!
Like the heavenly Scribe, He will open your heart's book
That He may reveal mysteries unto you.
The sea itself is one thing, the foam another;
Neglect the foam, and regard the sea with your eyes.
Waves of foam rise from the sea night and day.
You look at the foam ripples and not at the mighty sea.
We, like boats, are tossed hither and thither,
We are blind though we are on the bright ocean.
Ah! you who are asleep in the boat of the body,
You see the water; behold the Water of waters!
Under the water you see there is another Water moving it.
Within the spirit is a Spirit that calls it.
When you have accepted the Light, O beloved,
When you behold what is veiled without a veil,
Like a star you will walk upon the heavens.
Destroy Not Earthly Beauty
Tear not thy plumage off, it can not be replaced;
Disfigure not thy face in wantonness, O fair one!
That face which is bright as the forenoon sun—
To disfigure it were a grievous sin.
'Twere paganism to mar such a face as thine!
The moon itself would weep to lose sight of it!
Knowest thou not the beauty of thine own face?
Quit this temper that leads thee to war with thyself!
It is the claws of thine own foolish thoughts
That in spite wound the face of thy quiet soul.
Know such thoughts to be claws fraught with poison.
Which score deep wounds on the face of thy soul.
Thus spake cursed Iblis to the Almighty,
"I want a mighty trap to catch human game withal!"
God gave him gold and silver and troops and horses,
Saying, "You can catch my creatures with these."
Iblis said, "Bravo!" but at the same time hung his lip,
And frowned sourly like a bitter orange.
Then God offered gold and jewels from precious mines
To that laggard in the faith,
Saying, "Take these other traps, O cursed one."
But Iblis said, "Give me more, O blessed Defender."
God gave him succulent and sweet and costly wines,
And also store of silken garments.
But Iblis said, "O Lord, I want more aids than these,
In order to bind men in my twisted rope
So firmly that Thy adorers, who are valiant men,
May not, man-like, break my bonds asunder."
When at last God showed him the beauty of women,
Which bereaves men of reason and self-control,
Then Iblis clapped his hands and began to dance,
Saying, "Give me these; I shall quickly prevail with these!"
Lovers and beloved have both perished;
And not themselves only, but their love as well.
'Tis God alone who agitates these nonentities,
Making one nonentity fall in love with another.
In the heart that is no heart envy comes to a head,
Thus Being troubles nonentity. [Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., “The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East”, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VIII: Medieval Persia, p. 111-130]
O babbler, while thy soul is drunk with mere date wine,
Thy spirit hath not tasted the genuine grapes.
For the token of thy having seen that divine Light
Is this, to withdraw thyself from the house of pride.
When those Egyptian women sacrificed their reason,
They penetrated the mansion of Joseph's love;
The Cupbearer of Life bore away their reason
They were filled with wisdom of the world without end.
Joseph's beauty was only an offshoot of God's beauty:
Be lost, then, in God's beauty more than those women.
What ear has told you falsely eye will tell truly.
Then ear, too, will acquire the properties of an eye;
Your ears, now worthless as wool, will become gems;
Yea, your whole body will become a mirror,
It will be as an eye of a bright gem in your bosom.
First the hearing of the ear enables you to form ideas,
Then these ideas guide you to the Beloved.
Strive, then, to increase the number of these ideas,
That they may guide you, like Majnun, to the Beloved.
Yea, O sleeping heart, know the kingdom that endures not
Forever and ever is only a mere dream.
I marvel how long you will indulge in vain illusion,
Which has seized you by the throat like a headsman.
Know that even in this world there is a place of refuge;
Harken not to the unbeliever who denies it.
His argument is this: he says again and again,
"If there were aught beyond this life we should see it."
But if the child see not the state of reason,
Does the man of reason therefore forsake reason?
And if the man of reason sees not the state of Love,
Is the blessed moon of Love thereby eclipsed?
Love More Than Sorrow And Joy
Come then, O Lord!
Who are exalted above description and explanation!
Is it possible for the bodily eye to behold Thee?
Can mind of man conceive Thy frowns and Thy smiles?
Are hearts, when bewitched by Thy smiles and frowns,
In a fit state to see the vision of Thyself?
When our hearts are bewitched by Thy smiles and frowns,
Can we gain Life from these two alternating states?
The fertile garden of Love, as it is boundless,
Contains other fruits besides joy and sorrow.
The true lover is exalted above these two states,
He is fresh and green independently of autumn or spring!
Pay tithe on Thy beauty, O Beauteous One!
Tell forth the tale of the Beloved, every whit!
The heart of the harper was emancipated.
Like a soul he was freed from weeping and rejoicing,
His old life died, and he was regenerated.
Amazement fell upon him at that moment,
For he was exalted above earth and heaven,
An uplifting of the heart surpassing all uplifting.
I can not describe it; if you can, say on!
Ecstasy and words beyond all ecstatic words—
Immersion in the glory of the Lord of glory!
Immersion wherefrom was no extrication—
As it were identification with the Very Ocean!
When night returns and 'tis the time of the sky's levee,
The stars that were hidden come forth to their work.
The people of the world lie unconscious,
With veils drawn over their faces, and asleep;
But when the morn shall burst forth and the sun arise
Every creature will raise its head from its couch;
To the unconscious God will restore consciousness;
They will stand in rings as slaves with rings in ears;
Dancing and clapping hands with songs of praise,
Singing with joy, "Our Lord hath restored us to life!" [Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., “The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East”, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VIII: Medieval Persia, p. 111-130]
"Tell me, gentle traveler, thou
Who hast wandered far and wide,
Seen the sweetest roses blow,
And the brightest rivers glide;
Say, of all thine eyes have seen,
Which the fairest land has been?
"Lady, shall I tell thee where
Nature seems most blest and fair,
Far above all climes beside?—
'Tis where those we love abide:
And that little spot is best
Which the loved one's foot hath pressed.
"Though it be a fairy space,
Wide and spreading is the place;
Though 'twere but a barren mound,
'Twould become enchanted ground.
"With thee yon sandy waste would seem
The margin of Al Cawthar's stream;
And thou canst make a dungeon's gloom
A bower where new-born roses bloom."
[Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., “The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East”, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VIII: Medieval Persia, p. 113]
Poems from the Divan-I Shams-I Tabriz, c. 1270 CE
I: The man of God is drunken without wine,
The man of God is full without meat.
The man of God is distraught and bewildered,
The man of God has no food or sleep.
The man of God is a king "neath dervish-cloak,
The man of God is a treasure in a ruin.
The man of God is not of air and earth,
The man of God is not of fire and water.
The man of God is a boundless sea,
The man of God rains pearls without a cloud.
The man of God has hundred moons and skies,
The man of God has hundred suns.
The man of God is made wise by the Truth,
The man of God is not learned from book.
The man of God is beyond infidelity and religion,
To the man of God right and wrong are alike.
The man of God has ridden away from Not-being,
The man of God is gloriously attended.
The man of God is concealed, Shamsi Din;
The man of God do you seek and find!
II: What is to be done, O Moslems? for I do not recognize myself.
I am neither Christian, nor Jew, nor Gabr [Magian], nor Moslem.
I am not of the East, nor of the West, nor of the land, nor of the sea;
I am not of Nature's mint, nor of the circling heavens.
I am not of earth, nor of water, nor of air, nor of fire;
I am not of the empyrean, nor of the dust, nor of existence, nor of entity.
I am not of India, nor of China, nor of Bulghar, nor of Saqsin;
I am not of the kingdom of 'Iraqain, nor of the country of Khurasan.
I am not of this world, nor of the next, nor of Paradise, nor of Hell;
I am not of Adam, nor of Eve, nor of Eden and Rizwan.
My place is the Placeless, my trace is the Traceless;
'Tis neither body nor soul, for I belong to the soul of the Beloved.
I have put duality away, I have seen that the two worlds are one;
One I seek, One I know, One I see, One I call.
He is the first, He is the lest, He is the outward, He is the inward;
I know none other except "Ya Hu" [Yahweh] and "Ya man Hu" ["O He who is"].
I am intoxicated with Love's cup, the two worlds have passed out of my ken;
I have no business save carouse and revelry.
If once in my life I spent a moment without you,
From that time and from that hour I repent of my life.
If once in this world I win a moment with you,
I will trample on both worlds, I will dance in triumph for ever.
O Shamsi Tabriz, I am so drunken in this world,
That except of drunkenness and revelry I have no tale to tell.
III: No joy have I found in the two worlds apart from you, Beloved.
Many wonders I have seen: I have not seen a wonder like you.
They say that blazing fire is the infidel's portion:
I have seen none, save Abu Lahab, excluded from your fire.
Often have I laid the spiritual ear at the window of the heart:
I heard much discourse, but the lips I did not see.
Of a sudden you did lavish grace upon your servant:
I saw no cause for it but your infinite kindness.
O chosen Cup-bearer, O apple of mine eyes, the like of you
Ne'er appeared in Persia, nor in Arabia have I found it.
Pour out wine 'till I become a wanderer from myself;
For in selfhood and existence I have felt only fatigue.
O you who are milk and sugar, O you who are sun and moon,
O you who are mother and father, I have known no kin but you.
O indestructible Love, O divine Minstrel,
You are both stay and refuge: a name equal to you I have not found.
We are pieces of steel, and your love is the magnet:
You are the source of all aspiration, in myself I have seen none.
Silence, O brother! put learning and culture away:
'Till you named culture, I knew no culture but you.
IV: Grasp the skirt of his favor, for on a sudden he will flee;
But draw him not, as an arrow, for he will flee from the bow.
What delusive forms does he take, what tricks does he invent!
If he is present in form, he will flee by the way of spirit.
Seek him in the sky, he shines in water, like the moon;
When you come into the water, he will flee to the sky.
Seek him in the placeless, he will sign you to place;
When you seek him in place, he will flee to the placeless.
As the arrow speeds from the bow, like the bird of your imagination,
Know that the Absolute will certainly flee from the Imaginary.
I will flee from this and that, not for weariness, but for fear
That my gracious Beauty will flee from this and that.
As the wind I am fleet of foot, from love of the rose I am like the zephyr;
The rose in dread of autumn will flee from the garden.
His name will flee, when it sees an attempt at speech,
So that you cannot even say, "Such an one will flee."
He will flee from you, so that if you limn his picture,
The picture will fly from the tablet, the impression will flee from the soul.
V: A beauty that all night long teaches love-tricks to Venus and the moon,
Whose two eyes by their witchery seal up the two eyes of heaven.
Look to your hearts! I, whate'er betide, O Moslems,
Am so mingled with him that no heart is mingled with me.
I was born of his love at the first, I gave him my heart at the last;
When the fruit springs from the bough, on that bough it hangs.
The tip of his curl is saying, "Ho! betake you to rope-dancing."
The cheek of his candle is saying, "Where is a moth that it may burn?"
For the sake of dancing on that rope, O heart, make haste, become a hoop;
Cast yourself on the flame, when his candle is lit.
You will never more endure without the flame, when you have known the rapture of burning;
If the water of life should come to you, it would not stir you from the flame.
VI: David said: "O Lord, since you have no need of us,
Say, then, what wisdom was there in creating the two worlds?"
God said to him: "O temporal man, I was a hidden treasure;
I sought that that treasure of loving kindness and bounty should be revealed.
I displayed a mirror—its face the heart, its back the world—
Its back is better than its face—if the face is unknown to you."
When straw is mixed with clay, how should the mirror be successful?
When you part the straw from the clay, the mirror becomes clear.
Grape-juice does not turn to wine, unless it ferment awhile in the jar;
Would you have your heart grow bright, you must take a little trouble.
The soul which issued forth from the body—my king said to it:
"You are come even as you went: where are the traces of my benefactions?"
'Tis notorious that copper by alchemy becomes gold:
Our copper has been transmuted by this rare alchemy.
From God's grace this sun wants no crown or robe:
He is cap to a hundred bald men and cloak to ten naked.
Child, Jesus sate on an ass for humility's sake:
How else should the zephyr ride on the back of an ass?
O spirit, make your head in search and seeking like the water of a stream,
And O reason, to gain eternal life tread everlastingly the way of death.
Keep God in remembrance 'till self is forgotten,
That you may be lost in the Called, without distraction of caller and call.
VII: You I choose, of all the world, alone;
Will you suffer me to sit in grief?
My heart is as a pen in your hand,
You are the cause if I am glad or melancholy.
Save what you will, what will have I?
Save what you show, what do I see?
You make grow out of me now a thorn and now a rose;
Now I smell roses and now pull thorns.
If you keep me that, that I am;
If you would have me this, I am this.
In the vessel where you give color to the soul
Who am I, what is my love and hate?
You were first, and last you shall be;
Make my last better than my first.
When you are hidden, I am of the infidels;
When you are manifest, I am of the faithful.
I have nothing, except you have bestowed it;
What do you seek from my bosom and sleeve?
VIII: When my bier moves on the day of death,
Think not my heart is in this world.
Do not weep for me and cry "Woe, woe!"
You will fall in the devil's snare: that is woe.
When you see my hearse, cry not "Parted, parted!"
Union and meeting are mine in that hour.
If you commit me to the grave, say not "Farewell, farewell!"
For the grave is a curtain hiding the communion of Paradise.
After beholding descent, consider resurrection;
Why should setting be injurious to the sun and moon?
To you it seems a setting, but 'tis a rising;
Tho' the vault seems a prison, 'tis the release of the soul.
What seed went down into the earth but it grew?
Why this doubt of yours as regards the seed of man?
What bucket was lowered but it came out brimful?
Why should the Joseph of the spirit complain of the well?
Shut your mouth on this side and open it beyond,
For in placeless air will be your triumphal song. [Source: Reynold A. Nicholson, ed., Selected Poems from the Divani Shamsi Tabriz, (London: Cambridge University Press, 1898), pp. 15-17, 81-85, 95-97, 121-131; reprinted without alteration in “The Islamic World,” William H. McNeil & Marilyn Robinson Waldman, eds., (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), pp. 241-247
Love Needs No Mediator: When one has attained Union with God he has no need of intermediaries. Prophets and apostles are needled as links to connect ordinary man with God, but he who hears the "inner voice" within him has no need to listen to outward words, even of apostles. Although that intercession is himself dwelling in God, yet my state is higher and more lovely than his. Though he is God's agent, yet I desire not his intercession to save me from evil sent me by God, for evil at God's hand seems to me good. What seems mercy and kindness to the vulgar seems wrath and vengeance to God-intoxicated saints.
Humanity the Reflection of the Beloved: Parrots are taught to speak without understanding the words. The method is to place a mirror between the parrot and the trainer. The trainer, hidden by the mirror, utters the words, and the parrot, seeing his own reflection in the mirror, fancies another parrot is speaking, and imitates all that is said by the trainer behind the mirror. So God uses prophets and saints as mirrors whereby to instruct men, viz., the bodies of these saints and prophets; and men, when they hear the words proceeding from these mirrors, are utterly ignorant that they are really being spoken by "Universal Reason" or the "Word of God" behind the mirror of the saints. Earthly forms are only shadows of the Sun of Truth—a cradle for babes, but too small to hold those who have grown to spiritual manhood.
The Vision of Eternal Truth: The end and object of all negation is to attain to subsequent affirmation, as the negation in the creed, "There is no God," finds its complement and purpose in the affirmation "but God." Just so the purpose of negation of self is to clear the way for the apprehension of the fact that there is no existence but the One. The intoxication of Life and its pleasures and occupations veils the Truth from men's eyes, and they ought to pass on to the spiritual intoxication which makes men beside themselves and lifts them to the beatific vision of eternal Truth.
"O angels, bring him back to me.
Since the eyes of his heart were set on Hope,
Without care for consequence I set him free,
And draw the pen through the record of his sins!"
A lover was once admitted to the presence of his mistress, but, instead of embracing her, he pulled out a paper of sonnets and read them to her, describing her perfections and charms and his own love toward her at length. His mistress said to him, "You are now in my presence, and these lovers' sighs and invocations are a waste of time. It is not the part of a true lover to waste his time in this way. It shows that I am not the real object of your affection, but that what you really love is your own effusions and ecstatic raptures. I see, as it were, the water which I have longed for before me, and yet you withhold it. I am, as it were, in Bulghara, and the object of your love is in Cathay. One who is really loved is the single object of her lover, the Alpha and Omega of his desires. As for you, you are wrapped up in your own amorous raptures, depending on the varying states of your own feelings, instead of being wrapped up in me."
Eternal Life is gained by utter abandonment of one's own life. When God appears to His ardent lover the lover is absorbed in Him, and not so much as a hair of the lover remains. True lovers are as shadows, and when the sun shines in glory the shadows vanish away. He is a true lover to God to whom God says, "I am thine, and thou art Mine!"
Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons; most of the pictures are from a manuscript produced in 1663, probably in Kashmir, for Masnavi, a long poem written by Rumi
Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Arab News, Jeddah; Islam, a Short History by Karen Armstrong; A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); Encyclopedia of the World Cultures edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994). Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, BBC, Al Jazeera, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated September 2018