Masnavi 1L

HomeIranPoetryMowlana Jalaluddin Rumi - Masnavi Stories

STORY II. The Building of the "Most Remote Temple" at Jerusalem.
King David purposed to build a temple at Jerusalem, but was forbidden to do so
by a divine voice, because he had been a man of blood. But, it was added, the
work should be accomplished by his son Solomon, and Solomon's work would be
reckoned the same as David's, in accordance with the texts, "The faithful
are brethren," and "Sages are as a single soul," and "We
make no distinction between any of the apostles." 1 Accordingly,
when Solomon came to the throne, he set about the building, which was attended
with many miraculous circumstances, e.g., the stones in the quarry crying out
and moving of themselves to the site of the temple. Bilqis, Queen of Saba, sent
Solomon a present of forty camels laden with ingots of gold; but Solomon would
not receive them, and sent her messengers back with a letter commanding her to
abandon the worship of the sun and embrace Islam. 2 At the same time he
charged the messengers to report fully to the Queen all they had seen in his
kingdom, and to urge her to comply with his commands to renounce her
sovereignty and present herself in all humility at his court. As she delayed to
come, Solomon again sent to assure her that he had no sinister views regarding
her, and desired her attendance at his court solely for her own spiritual
benefit. At last Bilqis renounced her royal state and cast away all care for
worldly things, and, impelled by earnest desire to learn the true faith,
presented herself at the court of King Solomon. Then Solomon commanded that the
throne of Bilqis should be brought from Saba, and an 'Afrit offered to fetch
it, but Asaf, the vizier anticipated him. 3 Afterwards Solomon
proceeded with the building of the temple, wherein he was assisted by devils
and fairies. Then God tried Solomon by placing on his throne a false
counterpart of him. His miracle working signet was stolen by a devil named
Sakhar who thereupon assumed his shape and personated him for forty days,
during which Solomon had to wander about and beg his bread. After this he
regained his throne, and having completed the temple, began to worship therein.
One day he observed that a tuft of coarse grass had sprung up in a corner of
the temple, and he was greatly distressed because he thought it portended the
ruin of the building, but he took comfort from the thought that while he
himself lived the temple would not be allowed to fall into ruin; so long as he
lived, at least, he would root up all evil weeds that threatened the safety of
the temple, as well the temple built with hands as the spiritual temple in his
In the course of this story, which is told at great length, there occur
anecdotes of the beginning of the reign of 'Othman, of the miracles of
'Abdullah Moghrabi, and others, of which abstracts are given below.
Though philosophers call man the microcosm, divines call him the macrocosm.
In outward form thou art the microcosm,
But in reality the macrocosm. 4
Seemingly the bough is the cause of the fruit, 5
But really the bough exists because of the fruit.
Were he not impelled by desire of fruit,
The gardener would never have planted the tree.
Therefore in reality the tree is born from the fruit,
Though seemingly the fruit is born from the tree.
For this cause Mustafa said, "Adam and all prophets
Are my followers and gather under my standard.
Though to outward view I am a son of Adam,
In reality I am his first forefather,
Because the angels worshipped him for my sake,
And 'twas in my footsteps that he ascended to heaven.
Hence in reality our first parent was my offspring,
As in reality the tree is born of its own fruit."
What is first in thought is last in act.
Thought is the special attribute of the Eternal.
This product goes forth from heaven very swiftly,
And comes to us like a caravan. 6
'Tis not a long road that this caravan travels;
Can the desert stop the deliverer?
The heart travels to the Ka'ba every moment,
And by divine grace the body acquires the same power.
Distance and nearness affect only the body,
What do they matter in the place where God is?
When God changes the body,
It regards not parasangs or miles.
Even on earth there is hope of approaching God.
Press on like a lover, and cease vain words, O son!
In the course of his rebuke to the messengers of Bilqis for bringing him mere
gold instead of a humble heart, Solomon tells the story of the druggist who
used soapstone or Persian earth for a weight. A man came to him to buy
sugar-candy, and as he had no weight at hand, he used a lump of soapstone
instead; but, while his back was turned, the purchaser stole a bit of the
soapstone. The druggist, though he saw what he was doing, would not interrupt
him, for he knew that the more soapstone the purchaser stole, the less
sugar-candy he would get. In like manner the more men grasp at the transitory
wealth of this world, the less they will obtain of the stable wealth of the
world to come.
Part of Soloman's message to Bilqis.
Report to Bilqis what marvels ye have seen,
And what plains of gold belong to Solomon;
How ye beheld forty mansions faced with gold,
And how ye were ashamed of your presents;
That she may know Solomon is not covetous of gold;
He has received gold from the Creator of gold.
The moment he wills it, every grain of earth's dust
Is changed into gold and precious pearls.
For this cause, O thou that lovest gold,
On the last day God will make earth all silver (white). 7
Quit thy wealth, even if it be the realm of Saba;
Thou wilt find many realms not of this earth.
What thou callest a throne is only a prison;
Thou thinkest thyself enthroned, but art outside the door.
Thou hast no sovereignty over thine own passions,
How canst thou sway good and evil?
Thy hair turns white without thy concurrence,
Take shame to thyself for thy evil passions.
Whoso bows his head to the King of kings
Will receive a hundred kingdoms not of this world;
But the delight of bowing down before God
Will seem sweeter to thee than countless glories."
An anecdote follows of a darvesh who saw in a dream some saints, and prayed
them to provide him with his daily bread without obliging him to mix in worldly
affairs. The saints ordered him to go to the forest, and there he found that
all the wild fruits were rendered fit for his food. Having a few grains of gold
by him, which he had gained by worldly labour before this miracle had been
wrought for him, he was about to give them to a poor woodcutter who was passing
that way. But this woodcutter was a saint, and at once read his thoughts, and
to show, like Solomon, that he had no need of worldly wealth, he offered up a
short prayer to God, and straightway his bundle of firewood was changed into
gold, and immediately after, at another prayer, was changed back again into
Ibrahim bin Adham aud his fondness for music. 8

Haste to renounce thy kingdom, like Ibrahim bin Adham,
To obtain, like him, the kingdom of eternity.
At night that king would sleep on his throne,
With his guards of state surrounding his palace,
Though he needed no guards for the purpose
Of warding off robbers and vagabonds;
For he who is a just king knows everything,
And is safe from harm and his mind is at peace.
Justice is the guardian of his steps,
Not guards with drums round his palace.
His purpose in having this band of music was this,
To recall to his longing heart that call of God. 9
The wailing of horn and the thunder of drum
Resemble in some sort that dread "trumpet blast." 10
Wherefore philosophers say that we have learned
Our melodies from those of the revolving spheres.
The song of the spheres in their revolutions
Is what men sing with lute and voice.
The faithful hold that the sweet influences of heaven
Can make even harsh voices melodious.
As we are all members of Adam,
We have heard these melodies in Paradise;
Though earth and water have cast their veil upon us,
We retain faint reminiscences of those heavenly songs.
But while we are thus shrouded by gross earthly veils,
How can the tones of the dancing spheres reach us? 11
Hence it is that listening to music is lovers' food,
Because it recalls to them their primal union with God.
The inward feelings of the mind acquire strength,
Nay, are shown outwardly, under influence of music.
The fire of love burns hotter under stimulus of music,
Even as occurred in the case of the nut-gatherer.
Ibrahim's abdication.
Once that noble Ibrahim, as he sat on his throne,
Heard a clamour and noise of cries on the roof,
Also heavy footsteps on the roof of his palace.
He said to himself, "Whose heavy feet are those?"
He shouted from his window, "Who goes there?
'Tis no man's step; surely 'tis a fairy."
His guards, filled with confusion, bowed their heads,
Saying, "It is we who are going the rounds in search."
He said, "What seek ye?" They said "Our camels" 12
He said, "Who ever searched for camels on a housetop?"
They said, "We follow thy example,
Who seekest union with God while sitting on a throne."
This was all, and no man ever saw him again,
Just as fairies are invisible to men.
His substance was hid from men, though he was with them,
For what can men see save the outward aspect and dress?
As he was removed from the sight of friends and strangers,
His fame was noised abroad like that of the 'Anka.
For the soul of every bird that reaches Mount Qaf
Confers glory on the whole family of birds. 13
The anecdote of the nut-gatherer, introduced in the above story, is only
another version of the story of the thirsty man who threw bricks into the water
in order to hear the sound of the splash. 14 This is followed by an
address to Husamu-'d-Din, in which the poet says that his object in writing the
Masnavi was to elicit words from Husam, as his words were the same as the words
of God.
Solomon's preaching to the people of Bilqis. The art of preaching.
I tell the tale of Saba in lovers' style.
When the breeze bore Solomon's words to that garden,
'Twas as when bodies meet souls at the resurrection,
Or as when boys return to their loved homes.
The people of love are hidden amongst the peoples,
As a liberal man encompassed by the contumely of the base.
Souls are disgraced by union with bodies,
Bodies are ennobled by union with souls.
Arise, O lovers; this sweet draught is yours;
Ye are they that endure; eternal life is yours.
Ho! ye that seek, arise and take your fill of love,
Snuff up that perfume of Yusuf!
Approach, O Solomon, thou that knowest birds' language,
Sound the note of every bird that draws near; 15
When God sent, thee to the birds,
He taught thee first the notes of all the birds.
To the predestinarian bird talk predestination,
To the bird with broken wings preach patience,
To the patient well-doer preach comfort and pardon,
To the spiritual 'Anka relate the glories of Mount Qaf,
To the pigeon preach avoidance of the hawk,
To the lordly hawk mercy and self-control;
As for the bat, who lingers helpless in the dark,
Acquaint him with the society of the light;
To the fighting partridge teach peace,
To the cock the signs of dawning day.
In this way deal with all from the hoopoo to the eagle.
Then follows a long account of various miraculous incidents that occurred
during the childhood of the Prophet, how he was suckled by Halima, a woman of
the Bani Sa'ad, how the idols bowed down before him, how he strayed from home,
how his grandfather, Abd ul Muttalib, prayed to God that he might be found, and
how he was at last found in the Ka'ba and restored to his grandfather.
Next a story is told of a cur who attacked a blind man (Kur) in the street,
rather than hunt the wild ass (Gor) on the mountains in company with well-bred
dogs. This is an illustration of the thesis that mankind is prone to run after
mean earthly objects, and to neglect aspiring to the spiritual world.
Solomon's admonitions to Bilqis.
Ah! Bilqis, bestir thyself now the market is thronged,
Flee away from them whose traffic is unprofitable! 16
Arise, Bilqis, now that thou hast the choice,
Before that death lays his heavy hand upon thee.
Soon will death pull thy ears, as if thou wert
A thief dragged before the officer in deadly fear.
How long wilt thou steal shoes from asses of the world?
If thou must steal, steal pearls of the world above.
Thy sisters have found the kingdom that lasts forever,
Thou cleavest to the kingdom of darkness.
Happy is he who quits this earthly kingdom,
Which sooner or later death will destroy.
Arise! O Bilqis, at least behold
The kingdom of the royal kings of the faith!
In reality they are seated in the garden of the spirit,
Though to outward view they are guiding their friends.
That spiritual garden accompanies them everywhere,
Yet it is never revealed to the eyes of the people,
Its fruits ever asking to be gathered,
Its fount of life welling up to be drunk!
Go round about the heavens without aid of wings,
Like sun or full moon or new moon!
Thou wilt move as a spirit without aid of feet,
Thou wilt eat sweet viands without mouth or palate.
No crocodile of sorrow will attack thy bark,
Nor will sad thoughts of death assail thee.
Thou wilt be at once queen, army, and throne,
Endued with good fortune and fortune itself. 17
Thou sayest thou art a great queen of good fortune;
But thy fortune is apart from thee and will soon fade,
Thou wilt be left like a, beggar without sustenance;
Therefore, O chosen one, become thy own fortune.
When, O spiritual one, thou hast become thy own fortune,
Then, being thyself thy fortune, thou wilt never lose it.
How. O fortunate one, canst thou ever lose thyself,
When thy real self is thy treasure and thy kingdom?
How men and demons helped Solomon in building the temple.
When Solomon laid the foundations of the temple,
Men and Jinns came and lent their aid to the work,
Some of them with good-will, and others on compulsion,
Even as worshippers follow the road of devotion.
Men are as demons, and lust of wealth their chain,
Which drags them forth to toil in shop and field.
This chain is made of their fears and anxieties.
Deem not that these men have no chain upon them.
It causes them to engage in labor and the chase,
It forces them to toil in mines and on the sea,
It urges them towards good and towards evil.
God saith, "On their necks is a rope of palm fibre," 18
And "Verily on their necks have we placed ropes,'' 19
"We make this rope out of their own dispositions;
There is none either impure or intelligent,
But we have fastened his work about his neck." 20
Thy lust is even as fire burning in thy evil deeds;
The black coal of these deeds is lighted by the fire;
The blackness of the coal is first hidden by the fire,
But, when it is burnt, the blackness is made visible.
The building of the prophets was without lust,
And accordingly its splendor ever increased.
Yea, many are the noble temples they have raised,
Though all were not named "The Most Remote Temple."
The Ka'ba, whose renown waxes greater every moment,
Owed its foundation to the piety of Abraham.
Its glory is not derived from stones and mortar,
But from being built without lust or strife.
Neither are the prophets' writings like other writings;
Nor their temples, nor their works, nor their families;
Nor their manners, nor their wrath, nor their chastisements;
Nor their dreams, nor their reason, nor their words.
Each one of them is endued with a different glory,
Each soul's bird winged with different feathers.
Ho! pious ones, build the lively temple of the heart,
That the Divine Solomon may be seen, and peace be upon you!
And if your demons and fairies be recalcitrant,
Your good angels must place collars on their necks.
If your demons go astray through guile and fraud,
Chastisement must overtake them swift as lightning.
Be like Solomon, so that your demons
May dig stones for your spiritual edifice.
Be like Solomon, free from evil thoughts and guile,
So that carnal demons and Jinns may be submissive to you.
Your heart is as Solomon's signet; take good care
That it falls not a prey to demons,
For then demons will rule over you as over Solomon.
Guard then your signet from the demons, and be at peace.
Then follows a story of a poet who recited a panegyric in honor of a liberal
king. The king commanded that he should receive one thousand pieces of gold,
but the vazir, named Abul-Hasan, gave him ten thousand. The poet went to his
home well contented, but after some years fell into poverty, and naturally
bethought him of the generous king and his vazir, who had before assisted him.
Sibawayh, the grammarian of Shiraz says "Allah" is derived from
"Alah" (fleeing for refuge) and thus we see all creatures, and even
the elements themselves, ever looking to Allah to sustain them in existence.
The poet, therefore, again presented himself to the king with a new panegyric,
and the king, on hearing it, commanded as before that a thousand pieces of gold
should be given him. But the new vazir, who was also named Abul-Hasan,
persuaded the king that the exchequer could not afford this large outlay, and
kept the poet waiting so long for his money, that at last he was glad to get
away with only one hundred pieces of gold. These two vazirs recall Asaf, the
good vazir of King Solomon, who deserves the title "Light upon
light," 21 and Haman, the evil vazir of Pharaoh, who turned his
he,art against Moses, and brought many plagues upon the kingdom of Egypt.
How all creatures cry to God for sustenance.

Yea, all the fish in the seas,
And all feathered fowl in the air above,
All elephants, wolves, and lions of the forest,
All dragons and snakes, and even little ants,
Yea, even air, water, earth, and fire,
Draw their sustenance from Him, both winter and summer.
Every moment this heaven cries to Him, saying,
"O Lord, quit not Thy hold of me for a moment!
The pillar of my being is Thy aid and protection;
The whole is folded up in that right hand of Thine." 22
And earth cries, "O keep me fixed and steadfast,
Thou who hast placed me on the top of waters!"
All of them are waiting and expecting His aid,
All have learned of Him to represent their needs.
Every prophet extols this prescription,
"Seek ye help with patience and with prayer." 23
Ho! seek aid of Him, not of another than Him
Seek water in the ocean, not in a dried-up channel.
The next anecdote is that of the raven who taught Cain the art of digging
graves and burying corpses, as told in Koran v. 34. This is designed to
illustrate the thesis that unaided human reason can discover no now truth,
unless inspired by Divine wisdom, of which the prophets, and especially
"Universal Reason," or the Prophet Muhammed, are the channels. Thus
physicians and herbalists have derived their knowledge of the virtues of plants
from the instructions originally given by King Solomon when he classified the
plants that grew in the court of the temple. The inner eye sees more than is
visible to the sight of the vulgar. To illustrate this, an anecdote is told of
a Sufi who had accompanied his friends to a beautiful garden, but instead of
looking about and enjoying the fragrance of the flowers and fruits, sat with
his head sunk on his breast in Sufi fashion. His friends said to him, in the
words of the Koran, "Look at the signs of God's mercy, how after its death
He quickeneth the earth!" 24 He answered them that these signs were
far more plainly visible to him in his heart than in the outward creation,
which was merely as it were a blurred reflection from the spiritual creation
enshrined in his heart. For God says, "The life of the world is naught but
a cheating fruition." 25 In other words, "Nature conceals
God, but the supernatural in man reveals Him." 26
On cleansing the inward temple of the heart from self-conceit and reliance on
carnal reason.
When the body bows in worship, the heart is a temple,
And where there is a temple, there bad friends are weeds
When a liking for bad friends grows up in you,
Flee from them, and avoid converse with them.
Root up those weeds, for, if they attain full growth,
They will subvert you and your temple together.
O beloved, this weed is deviation from the "right way,"
You crawl crookedly, like infants unable to walk.
Fear not to acknowledge your ignorance and guilt,
That the Heavenly Master may not withhold instruction.
When you say, "I am ignorant; O teach me,"
Such open confession is better than false pride.
O ingenuous one, learn of our father Adam,
Who said of yore, "O Lord, we have dealt unjustly." 27
He made no vain excuses and prevaricated not,
Nor did he raise the standard of guile and craft.
On the other hand, Iblis raised arguments, saying,
"I used to be honorable; Thou hast disgraced me.
My stain is owing to Thee; Thou art my dyer;
Thou hast caused my sin and transgression."
Read the text, "Lord, Thou hast caused me to err," 28
That you plead not compulsion, and so err (like Iblis).
How long will you climb into that tree of compulsion?
How long cast out of sight your own freewill?
How long, like Iblis and his evil crew,
Throw the blame of your own sins upon God?
How were you compelled to sin when you took such pleasure
And pride in engaging in those sins?
Does a man feel such pleasure in acting on compulsion
As he exhibits when committing wrong actions?
You battle like twenty men against those
Who give you good advice not to do that act;
Saying to them, "This is right and quite proper;
Who dissuades me from it but men of no account?"
Does a man acting on compulsion talk like this?
Or rather one who is erring of his own freewill?
Whatever your lust wills you deem freewill,
What reason demands you deem compulsion.
Whoso is wise and prudent knows this,
That cleverness comes from Iblis, but love from Adam.
Cleverness is like Canaan's swimming in the ocean; 29
'Tis no river or small stream; 'tis the mighty ocean.
Away with this attempt to swim; quit self-conceit.
'Twill not save you; Canaan was drowned at last.
Love is as the ark appointed for the righteous,
Which annuls the danger and provides a way of escape.
Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment;
Cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment intuition.
Make sacrifice of your reason at the feet of Mustafa,
Say, "God Sufficeth me, for He, is sufficient for me." 30
Do not, like Canaan, hang back from entering the ark,
Being puffed up with vain conceit of cleverness.
He said, "I will escape to the top of high mountains,
Why need I put myself under obligation to Noah?"
Ah! better for him had he never learnt swimming!
Then he would have based his hopes on Noah's ark.
Would he had been ignorant of craft as a babe!
Then like a babe he would have clung to his mother.
Would he had been less full of borrowed knowledge!
Then he would have accepted inspired knowledge from his father.
When, with inspiration at hand, you seek book-learning,
Your heart, as if inspired, loads you with reproach. 31
Traditional knowledge, when inspiration is available,
Is like making ablutions with sand when water is near.
Make yourself ignorant, be submissive, and then
You will obtain release from your ignorance.
For this cause, O son, the Prince of men declared,
"The majority of those in Paradise are the foolish." 32
Cleverness is as a wind raising storms of pride;
Be foolish, so that your heart may be at peace;
Not with the folly that doubles itself by vain babble,
But with that arising from bewilderment at "The Truth."
Those Egyptian women who cut their hands were fools 33
Fools as to their hands, being amazed at Yusuf's face.
Make sacrifice of reason to love of "The Friend,"
True reason is to be found where He is.
Men of wisdom direct their reason heavenwards,
Vain babblers halt on earth where no "Friend" is.
If through bewilderment your reason quits your head,
Every hair of your head becomes true reason and a head.
Then follow commentaries on the text, "O thou enfolded in thy
mantle;" 34 on the proverb, "Silence is the proper answer to
a fool;" on the Hadis, "God created the angels with reason and the
brutes with lust, but man he created with both reason and lust; the man who
follows reason is higher than the angels, and the man who follows lust is lower
than the brutes;" on the text, "As to those in whose heart is a
disease, it will add doubt to their doubt, and they shall die infidels,"
35 and a comparison of the struggle between reason and lust to that
between Majnun and his she-camel, he trying to get to his mistress Laila, and
the she-camel trying to run home to her foal.