The Mesnavi and The Acts of the Adepts, by Jelal-'d-din Rumi and Shemsu-'d-Din Ahmed, tr. by James W. Redhouse, , at sacred-texts.com
A second Jewish king, descendant of the first,
To persecute the Christians showed hate's fiercest thirst.
If information's sought about this wicked king,
That chapter of the Qur’ān read: "Heaven's Girdle-Ring." 1
A sorry rite it was the first had introduced;
With cruel zeal this wicked rite the last abused.
The introducer of a rule that tends to ill,
Draws on his head deep curses, morn and even, still.
The good decease; their bright example serves as guide;
The wicked soon decay; their name all men deride. 5
The children of those sinners, till the trump of doom,
Are cursed as soon as born; no lot more full of gloom.
How many springs burst forth, one salt, the other sweet;
Their savour changes, while the days and nights compete.
The good are promised their inheritance aloft,
Of waters sweet; 2 in Scripture mentioned oft and oft. 3
The seeker's wish, if rightly we consider it,
A scintillation is of flame from holy writ.
No flame exists apart from body whence it burns;
10 Where’er the burning body hies, the flame, too, turns.
A window-light will wander all around a room;
Because the rising sun to sunset tends, and gloom.
That which to any constellation's stars pertains,
Must move with it, rise, set, south, as its place ordains.
The man who under Venus’ influence was born
Is joyous, amorous, ambitious, with greed torn.
If Mars his planet be, his temper's bellicose;
War, scandal, litigation,—these he most does choose.
But other stars there are, the planets, seven, beside;
15 And unto men from them nor good, nor ills betide.
Revolving in another firmament than they,
Above the spheres that bear the orbs of night and day.
Bright through the moral splendour lent them by the Lord;
Not bound together quite, nor yet in disaccord.
The man whose soul is influenced by one of those,
Like meteors, still shall drive away the spirit's foes.
His disposition feeleth not the rage of Mars;
He temporises;—meekly acts in prosperous wars.
His light's triumphant;—darkness it shall never know.
20 Between two fingers holdeth he the truth, I trow.
The truth doth shed a shining light on human souls,
Received by heaven's favourites, in special ghostly strolls.
Illumined with that light, as spangles deck a bride,
They turn their souls to God, contemning all beside.
Who feels not keenly love's great soul-compelling might,
Is portionless of spangles from truth's flashing light.
All parts must ever share the nature of their whole,
As nightingale pours out unto one rose its soul.
Whatever property may qualify a thing
25 Externally, man's qualities are mind's offspring.
From purity, rich colours rise, good qualities;
Stains,—moral, or as dyes,—from gross impurities.
"God's Baptism" is the name of all that's good in man;
"The curse of God," of all that's evil in our plan. 1
In which of these two seas our streamlets may subside,
They but return into the source from whence their tide.
From mountain-tops, swift torrents rushing down apace.
From men's frames, love-inspired souls, anon the race.
The counsel hear, that now, this Jewish dog did take.
Beside a fire a hideous idol he did make, 30
And proclamation ran: "Whoever ’d save his soul,
This idol worships; or in fire he's burnt to coal." 2
Thus having made his hate an idol to himself,
A second idol straightway he invents, this elf.
The mother of all idols is our fleshly pride.
They're dragons; this, the egg of cockatrice's bride.
The flesh is flint and steel; our pride is but its spark.
That pride pervades the flesh as fecundation's mark.
Can moisture quench the latent spark in flint and steel?
Can man be safe while flesh and pride he lives to feel; 35
In flint and steel we know that fire is still alive.
No water's of avail that fire from them to drive.
With water we put out a fire when burning bright;
The spark in flint and steel is safe from water's might.
From flint and steel of flesh what burnings still ensue!
Their sparks, the blasphemies of Christian and of Jew!
If water in the jug and pitcher come to end,
On wellspring we must draw, a fresh supply to send.
Our idol is the muddy dregs left in our jug;
40 The flesh the sewer from whence it filters, spite of plug.
The graven idol (fed from blackest sewer tide
In flesh, its graver), was as fountain by wayside.
The inward idol, pride, the filthy jug's black slush;
The prurient flesh, the source from which it had its gush.
A hundred potters’ pitchers one small stone can break;
And spill the cooling water drawn our thirst to slake.
To smash an idol, too, quite easy may appear;
Not easy to root out the flesh; too hard, I fear.
Would see the picture of the flesh, inquiring youths?
45 Description read of hell, with seven yawning mouths. 1
From each soul's flesh comes forth a special mode of guile.
Each guile, a whirlpool ready Pharaoh's hosts to spoil.
In Moses, and in Moses’ God, seek refuge then.
Abandon not God's faith for Pharaohs and their men.
The one true God adore; in Ahmed's faith believe.
Thy soul and body save,—from Abū-Dahl retrieve. 2
The Jew a Christian mother to that idol brought.
An infant in her arms; the fire with blazes fraught.
"Fall down and worship;" cried he, "senseless stock adore;
50 The fire shall then not harm thee, now, nor evermore."
That mother was a woman firm in true belief;
And thence disdained prostration, though ’t should give relief.
They snatched her infant; next, they dashed it in the flame.
The mother's spirit quailed to see this deed of shame.
Though not herself, to save her infant, she'd bow down.
But lo! a miracle! The babe cried: "Let alone!
Uninjured am I here. Come in. Be not dismayed.
’Tis cool and pleasant. Cease to feel of fire afraid;—
Mere blinding bandage to the eyes;—naught but a veil.
God's mercy's here revealed,—made manifest. All hail! 55
Come in, my mother, dear. The truth thou shalt record.
Thou’lt here perceive how saints hold converse with the Lord.
Come in; and witness water blazing high, as fire.
This is a world where flame like water is;—not dire.
Come. Look on miracles for blessed Abr’am wrought; 1
Whose furnace changed to gardens, out of firewood brought.
Death then I underwent, when I was born of thee.
The fear of death swept o’er me, ere my eyes could see.
With birth I ’scaped from prison, narrow, dark, and drear;
Emerging to a world, vast, radiant, bright, and clear. 60
Alas! that world, you see, is but a second womb.
Joy, comfort, happiness, are found beyond the tomb.
Within this fire a realm of wonders lies around;
Each atom's here a Jesus;—balm to heal each wound.
This world I'm in's reality;—not merely form.
The scene I've left's all vanity;—food for the worm.
Come in, my mother; quick! Seize this auspicious hour.
Come in! Let opportunity not ’scape thy pow’r.
Come in; come in; in name of parent's tenderness.
Come in! This fire has no devouring ruthlessness. 65
Come in! Thou’st witnessed all that Jewish dog can move.
Come in! The grace and power of God Almighty prove.
’Tis from my love for thee I thus so much insist;
From pleasure felt by me, for thee I've fear dismissed.
Come in; come in! And others call, to follow thee.
The Great King here His bounteous table's spread for me.
Come in; come in! All of you, saints of God, elect!
Resigned ones! 1 Faith's cup of martyrdom select!
Come in! Flock in; in crowds; as moths around a light!
70 This year has tens of thousands springs; but not one night."
Thus loudly cried the infant from its bed of flame.
Th’ assembled crowds all heard it. All were seized with shame.
A sudden holy impulse urged them to obey.
In crowds those men and women cast their lives away.
No force was needed;—no compulsion;—all was love;
For bitterness is sweet to all whom love doth move.
To such a point it came that guards and soldiers, all,
Were fain to cry: "Withhold! The fire is more than full!"
The Jewish king at sight of all this love and zeal,
75 Was shamed,—was thunderstruck; his wicked heart did reel.
He saw that faith can give the lover's ardent flame.
Self-sacrifice is naught in true devotion's name.
Thank God! Beelzebub was conquered in that Jew.
Thank God! ’Twas Satan's self these darksome deeds did rue.
The shame he sought to bring upon the cheeks of some,
A hundredfold was heaped on his own head at home.
He thought from others’ shame the veiling leaf to tear;
He saw them safe, his own foul nakedness laid bare.
A ribald fellow once, by lewdest mob sustained,
80 Called railing out on Ahmed. Wry his mouth remained.
He then came begging pity, in the Prophet's trace:
"Forgive, Muhammed, who’rt endued with wisdom's grace.
For want of knowing better, insolent I was.
’Tis I that merit scorn and mockery. Alas!"
When God decides to humble any sinner, proud,
A demon stirs this last t’ insult some man of God.
And he whom God elects to cloak where ’tis he halts,
Has grace bestowed on him to cover others’ faults.
Should favour from the Lord in mercy reach a man,
Humility is given him; to pray ’s part of his plan. 85
How blessed are the eyes that smart with sorrow's brine!
How blessed is the heart inflamed with love divine!
Contrition's tears are ever hallowed by heaven's smile.
The latter end of all things man should scan awhile.
Wherever water flows, the fields are fresh and green.
Tears followed are by grace;—as all the prophets ween.
Then imitate the water-wheel, that groans and weeps. 1
By prayers, and moans, and tears, a man his heart pure keeps.
Wouldst thou shed tears? Feel pity, when thou meetest woe.
Wouldst mercy find? Show mercy, when men bow them low. 90
The Jewish king reproached the fire: "O raging thing!
Thy all-destructive might, where is it? Where's thy sting?
If thou wilt not consume, what quality hast thou?
Or has my fortune veered; and with it, thy dread glow?
Thou sparest not thy worshippers, the Magian race.
Whence comes it; these who spurn thee, Christians, meet with grace?
Thou never wast, O fire, for patience noted here.
Why burn’st thou not? What is there? Hast thou lost thy power?
Is this eye-binding? 2 Is it, rather, reason's blind?
How is’t thy flames consume not all their hated kind? 95
Bewitched thee have they? Or is’t magic natural?
Or is’t my fortune wills that thou turn prodigal?"
To him the fire: "O miscreant! I'm still the same.
Come in and try, thou, how thou’lt find my smallest flame.
My nature, as my substance, has not suffered change.
Outside my nature's limit I've no power to range.
At door of Turkman's tent the savage household dogs
Do wag their tails before a guest, and crouch like logs.
But should a stranger pass by, near the guarded tent,
100 Him then those dogs assail, with lion-like intent.
Less than a dog I'm not, in service to my Lord.
Than Turkman less, there's none, in rights, upon earth's sward."
When fire thy body injures, and inflicts some harm;
Remember, its consuming power can also warm.
And when a fire thus serves thee, acts some needful part,
Reflect! Those qualities thou seest did God impart.
Art injured, ’haps? Fall down; entreat the Lord with prayer.
The hurtful power was given by Him in gracious care.
Should He so will, each injury a blessing is.
105 Chained captives find their freedom by a word of His.
Fire, air, earth, water, all are servants of their God.
I, thou, them lifeless deem. He knows they live and plod.
In presence of the great Creator fire must still
Its service do; and, lover-like, work out His will.
Thou strikest flint on steel; fire instantly leaps forth.
’Tis by commandment of the Lord it thus takes birth.
Strike not together, thou, the flint and steel of lust.
For, male and female like, they'll generate; they must.
The flint and steel are means. Far higher raise thy look.
110 With reason thou’rt endowed. Go; read the holy book.
One means comes from another means; and cause from cause.
Without a means or cause, no means from self e’er rose.
The means by which all prophets’ miracles are wrought,
Of higher order are than earthly means; no doubt.
Man's mind can compass how these latter act, and when;
The former hidden are from all but prophet's ken.
These former ’tis that give the latter power to act;
And rarely, that, their normal action, counteract.
A means a rope is, by the help of which we reach;
And in this worldly pit by means each reaches each. 115
Around its coiling cylinder the well-rope's wound.
To shut our eyes to this would blind indeed be found.
The ropes by means of which results are seen to steer,
In this our world, deem not they're moved by star or sphere;
Lest thou become confused and giddy like a wheel;—
Take fire, consume, like tinder, sparks of shame to feel.
The air becomes a fire at times by God's decree.
Both air and fire run wild with joy, His means to be.
The streams of mercy, the consuming fires of wrath,
Thou’lt see, my son, are both from God. Look well, forsooth. 120
Were not the wind aware of God's almighty power,
How had it ever blown the blast of ‘Ad's 1 last hour?
Around his Muslims Hal a saving circle drew.
The wind within that mystic circuit softly blew.
While all that were beyond were dashed to pieces soon.
Like chaff before the breeze, their limbs around were strewn.
Shaybān the shepherd, too, a circle round his fold
Was used to draw; whate’er the season, hot or cold;
On Fridays, when, at midday's sacred hour of praise,
125 He to a congregation hied; lest wolf should seize.
No wolf was ever known to break the holy spell;
Nor sheep to stray beyond; each knew the limit well.
To wind, to wolf, to sheep, and lusts of every one,
The circle traced by saint a barrier was, like stone.
To Gnostic, so likewise, the harmless gale of death
Blows mild and gentle, summer-breezes-like on heath.
And fire was fangless; could not Abraham offend.
How should it hurt him? Was he not God's "Chosen Friend"?
The pious man burns not in fire of fleshly lust.
130 But sinners still consumed are upon earth's crust.
The Red Sea waves, all raging by divine command,
The host of Israel knew; but Pharaoh's armies drown’d.
The earth, again, wide gaping at Jehovah's word,
Did Korah and his wealth devour; but Moses spared. 1
In Jesu's hand, warmed with his breath, the fictile clay
As living birds arose, spread wing, and flew away. 2
Thy lauds and praises, too, breath from thy frame account.
Sincerity them vivifies; to heaven they mount.
The rock of Sion danced at sight of Moses’ God 3
135 As perfect cenobite; its faults were all removed.
What wonder if a hill should dance and saint become?
Was not great Moses’ self a clod of clay and loam?
The Jewish king now manifested great surprise.
These things, he said, were mockeries, mere patent lies.
His councillors conjured him more sedate to be;
And not to push his hardihood to rash degree.
These councillors he fettered, into prison cast;
Injustice to injustice adding, first and last.
A shout was heard from heaven when matters reached that point:
"Jew dog! Prepare for vengeance from on high! Aroynt!" 140
The fire then blazed amain; its flames lapped all around.
It slew and burnt the mob of Jews from off the ground.
Their origin was hell, from whence their souls had come;
Their goal was also hell; to it they now went home.
The Jewish race is hellish; many proofs are shown.
Parts are they of a whole accursed; as is well known.
Their nature hellish; all their joy God's saints to burn.
Their fire recoiled upon themselves. ’Twas justice’ turn.
For them, who were, by nature, children born of wrath,
The lowest depths of hell were fittest cells, forsooth. 145
A mother ever yearneth after her own child;
A dam is ever followed by her offspring wild.
Though true that water may enclosed be in a tank,
The air will it absorb. ’Twas thence to earth it sank.
Air sets it free; direct, restores it to its source,
By little and by little. None perceive its course.
So, too, our breath, in manner like, steals soul away,
By little and by little, from this house of clay,
In words of praise, ascending to God's holy throne,
From us to where He reigns;—as known to Him alone. 150
Our breathings rise on wings of true sincerity,
The offerings of our hearts to all eternity.
We then receive rewards for those poor words of praise,
In tenfold showers of mercy from th’ Ancient of Days.
And we are still constrained to utter songs of thanks,
That man should so be raised above th’ angelic ranks.
This rising and descending alternates for aye.
The Lord forbid that I should fail therein one day!
We're drawn, we are attracted, so to love the Lord;
155 As we were first instructed, firm to trust His word.
Each man will turn his eyes in hope towards the place,
Where he has tasted joy some former day of grace.
The pleasures of each kind are most with their own kin;
As part must share with whole its qualities, its sin.
Things needs must be assigned unto a common class,
If aught they have in common; two will form a race.
Thus bread and water are not human at the first;
But human they become, through hunger and through thirst.
In form they have no tie with us of human kind;
160 But through a special link they kindred with us find.
If pleasure, then, we find in what's not of our race,
Be sure there's some connection through which this takes place.
If that connection but resemblance be in shape,
It will not last; it's for a time; it must escape.
’Tis true that birds find pleasure in a whistle's note;
But then they fancy ’tis their mate's, on whom they dote.
And if a thirsty man take pleasure in his wine,
He tastes the lees, and loathes. To water he'll incline.
A pauper may amused be with counterfeited coin;
165 But take this to the mint; defaced ’twill be, in fine.
Then be not thou misled with gilded counterfeit;
Delusion will thee plunge headlong into hell's pit.
m55:1 Qur’ān, chap. lxxxv., the name of which literally means "the Towers," but is also applied to the Signs of the Zodiac. These Christians were the people of Nejrān in south-western Arabia; their persecutor Dhū-Nuwās, a Jew, king of Yaman, some time before Muhammad.
m55:2 "Gardens beneath which rivers flow" is a frequently recurring expression in the Qur’ān. Some have special names.
m55:3 See Qur’ān xxxv. 29: "Then we caused" thee "to inherit the Scripture."
m57:1 In Qur’ān ii. 132, Islām is termed "God's Baptism." In ii. 156, and again in vii. 42, and xi. 21, "God's curse" is invoked on sinners.
m57:2 This is the story alluded to in Qur’ān lxxxv., quoted above. In traditions, Dhū-Nuwās was the name of the Jewish king of Yaman, who burnt the Christians of Nejrān in a fiery trench on their refusing to forsake their faith. The idol is imaginary; from Nebuchadnezzar.
m58:1 Qur’ān xvi. 45; xxxvii. 72; xl. 76; speaks of the "Gates of Hell;" and a commentary to she last says they are held to be seven.
m58:2 Abū-Jahl was a surname given by Muhammed to one of his most inveterate enemies of the Quraysh, killed at Badr. The word means: "Father of Ignorance," and here indicates fleshly pride. He had formerly borne the surname of Abū-’l-Hakem, which means: Father of the Arbitrator.
m59:1 In Qur’ān xxi. 69, is related the miracle by which Abraham was saved from the fire into which he was cast by Nimrod for his refusal to worship an image.
m60:1 The word "Muslim," whence the corruption Moslem, means, in Arabic, "one who acquiesces in the truth and will of God." As such, Muslims have existed under every dispensation.
m61:1 The creaking, leaky water-wheel, the Persian wheel, is well known in the East.
m61:2 "Eye-binding" is a name for sorcery. The spectator is supposed to have his sight spell-bound, so as not to see what is really done.
m63:1 ‘Ad, a pre-Semitic, perhaps Turanian, people in south-eastern Arabia, often mentioned in the Qur’ān. They refused to believe the prophet Hūd (supposed to be Heber), and were destroyed, lxix. 6-7, by an eight days’ tempest.
m64:1 Qur’ān xxiii. 76, &c.
m64:2 Qur’ān iii. 43.
m64:3 Qur’ān vii. 139.