Tongue cannot tell the secret of the Qur'ân, for His intimates keep it concealed; the Qur'ân indeed knows its own secret,--hear it from itself, for itself knows it. Except by the soul's eye none knows the mea, surer of words from the true reader of the Qur'ân;--I will not take upon myself to say that thou truly knowest the Qur'ân though thou be `Uthmân.
The world is like the summer's heat, its people like drunkards therein, all wandering in the desert of indifference; death the shepherd, men his flock; and in this waste of desire and wretchedness the hot sand shows as running water. The Qur'ân is as the cool water of Euphrates, whilst thou art like a thirsty sinner on the plain of the Judgment. The letter and Qur'ân hold thou as cup and water; drink the water, gaze not on the vessel. Because it is summer, thy home seems to thee a mine of enmity; because the water is cold, the vessel of turquoise, thou usest not to fast. To the pure heart suffering will tell in a cry of anguish the secret of the pure Qur'ân; how can Reason discover its interpretation? But a delight in it finds out its inmost secret.
Though the written characters are not of the word, the scent of Yûsuf is in his garment; the fair Yûsuf was cast away in Egypt, but the scent reached Ya'qûb in Canaan. The letter of the Qur'ân is to its sense as thy clothes to thy life; the letter may be uttered by the tongue, its soul can be read but by the soul. The letter is as the shell, the true Qur'ân the pearl; the heart of the free-born desires not the shell. Though its words are fair and finely traced, though the mountain becomes as carded wool before them, make music, of them in thy heart like Moses, not outwardly like the treble of the pipes. When the soul recites the Qur'ân it enjoys a luscious morsel; whoso hears it, mends his ragged robe. The words, the voice, the letters of the verses, are as three stalks in bowls of vegetables. Though the husk is not fair nor sweet, still it guards the kernel; but through thy impurity the mystery becomes a song, the word of God a tune through thy folly.
Whilst thou art in this tomb appointed for us, this residence contrived for us, in this world full of objects of pursuit, this abode of deceit, look with thy earthly sight upon the willow, and with thy soul upon the tûbâ-tree; read with thy tongue the letter, and the sense with thy soul.
Sacrifice, to honour the Qur'ân, thy reason before its discourse; reason is no guide to its mysteries; reason is impotent here. Thou art now shameless, deceitful; thou art not worthy to have the curtain of the mystery drawn aside; thou knowest naught of its secret, hast
not yet arrived at `Arafât. So long as thou desirest pleasure and cherishest desire, play as a child,--thou art not man enough for this.
But when wisdom has conquered the world of desire, pure goodness succeeds to evil; the devil of passion flies to Hell, and Sulaimân regains his ring; the Qur'ân's secret routs the demon;--what wonder if he flies in terror from the Qur'ân?
Wait, for when the day of true religion dawns, the night of thought and fancy and sense flies away. When the veiled ones of the unseen world see that thou art stainless, they will lead thee into the invisible abode and reveal to thee their faces; and disclosing to thee the secret of the Qur'ân, they will withdraw the veil of letters. The earthy will have a reward of earth, the pure shall see purity. An understanding of the Qur'ân dwells not in the brain where pride starts up; the ass is dumb as a mere stone, and lends not his ear to the secret of God's word,--turns away from hearing the Qur'ân and pays no heed to the sûra's secret; but if the mind be disciplined of God it shall discover in the sûra the secret of the Qur'ân.