Glorious it is, though concealing its glory: and a guide, though under the veil of coquetry. Its discourse is bright and strong; its argument clear and apt; its words are a casket for the pearl of life,
its precepts a tower over the water-wheel of the faith; to the Knowers it is love's garden, to the soul the highest heaven.
O thou to whom, by reason of thy heedlessness and sin, in reading the Qur'ân there comes upon thy tongue no sweetness from its words, into thy heart no yearning from their comprehension,--by its exceeding majesty and authority the Qur'ân, with argument and proof, is in its inner meaning the light of the high road of Islâm, in its outward significance the guardian of the tenets of the multitude; life's sweetness to the wise, to the heedless but a recitation on the tongue,--phrases upon their tongue whose sweetness they cannot taste, while careless of their spirit and design.
There is an eye which sees the spirit of the Qur'ân, and an eye which sees the letter;--for this the bodily eye, for that the eye of the soul; the body, through the ear, carries away the melody of its words; the soul, by its perceptive power, feeds on the delights of its spirit. For strangers the curtains of majesty are drawn together in darkness before its loveliness; the curtain and the chamberlain know not aught of the king;--he knows who is Possessed of sight, but how can the curtain know aught of him?
The revolutions of the azure vault have brought no weakening of its power, no dimming of its lustre; its syntax and form, pronunciation and nunation, prevail from earth to Pleiades.
Now hast thou in thy daily provision tasted the nut's first husk the first skin is rough and harsh, the second is like the moon's
slough, the third is silk, pale and fine, and fourth is the succulent cool kernel; the fifth degree is thy abode, where the prophets' law becomes thy threshold. Seeing then thou mayest delight thy soul with the fifth, why halt at the first? Thou hast seen of the Qur'ân but its veil,--hast seen its letters, which do but hide it; it does not reveal its countenance to the unworthy,--him only the letters confront. If it had seen thee to be worthy, it would have rent this subtle veil and shown its face to thee, and there thy soul might have found rest; for it heals the wounded heart, and medicines the disappointed soul; the body tastes the flavour of the dregs that it may live; the soul knows the taste of the oil.
What can sense see, but that tile outward form is good? What there is within, wisdom knows. Thou recitest the form of its sûras, and its true nature thou knowest not; but know, that to him who truly reads the Qur'ân, the feast it gives comes not short of the guesthouse of Paradise. It has made the letter its veil, because it is to be concealed from alien eyes; material existence knows naught of its inmost soul,--know, its body is one thing, its soul a thing apart; from its outward form thou seest but so much as do the common men from the appearance of a king.
Why deemest thou that the words are the Qur'ân? What crude discourse is thine concerning it? Though the letter is its bedfellow, it knows it not, no more than the figures on the bath; nor do
the sleepers and the cut-purses I see, like those who watch, the spirit of the Qur'ân.