Masnavi 1S

HomeIranPoetryMowlana Jalaluddin Rumi - Masnavi Stories

STORY IX. The Mule and the Camel.
A mule said to a camel, "How is it that I am always stumbling and falling
down, whilst you never make a false step?" The camel replied, "My
eyes are always directed upwards, and I see a long way before me, while your
eyes look down, and you only see what is immediately under your feet." The
mule admitted the truth of the camel's statement, and besought him to act as
his guide in future, and the camel consented to do so. Just so partial reason
cannot see beyond the grave, but real reason looks onward to the day of
judgment, and, therefore, is enabled to steer a better course in this world.
For this cause, men having only partial reason or mere opinion of their own
ought to follow the guidance of the saints, according to the text, "O
believers, enter not upon any affair ere God and his Apostle lead the
way." 1
Then follows another anecdote of an Egyptian who asked an Israelite to draw
water for him from the Nile, because the water of the Nile turned to blood when
drawn by an Egyptian. Afterwards the Egyptian asked the Israelite to pray for
him, and the Israelite admonished him to renounce his egotism and conceit of
his own existence, which blinded his eyes to divine verities. In illustration
of this he tells the same story of an adulterous woman, which is known as the
"Merchant's Tale" in Chaucer. This woman, desiring to carry on an
intrigue with her paramour, climbed up a pear-tree to gather the fruit, and
when she had reached the top she looked down, and pretended that she saw her
husband misconducting himself with another woman. The husband assured her there
was no one but himself there, and desired her to come down and see for herself.
She came down and admitted there was no one there. Her husband then, at her
request, ascended the tree, and she at once called her paramour, and began to
amuse herself with him. Her husband saw her from his post in the tree, and
began to abuse her; but she declared there was no man with her, and that the
pear-tree made her husband see double, just as it had made her see double
The evolution of man.
First he appeared in the class of inorganic things, 2
Next he passed therefrom into that of plants.
For years he lived as one of the plants,
Remembering naught of his inorganic state so different;
And when he passed from the vegetive to the animal state
He had no remembrance of his state as a plant,
Except the inclination he felt to the world of plants,
Especially at the time of spring and sweet flowers.
Like the inclination of infants towards their mothers,
Which know not the cause of their inclination to the breast,
Or the excessive inclination of young disciples
Towards their noble and illustrious teachers.
The disciple's partial reason comes from that Reason,
The disciple's shadow is from that bough.
When the shadows in the disciples cease,
They know the reason of their attachment to the teachers.
For, O fortunate one, how can the shadow move,
Unless the tree that casts the shadow move as well?
Again, the great Creator, as you know,
Drew man out of the animal into the human state.
Thus man passed from one order of nature to another,
Till he became wise and knowing and strong as he is now.
Of his first souls he has now no remembrance,
And he will be again changed from his present soul.
In order to escape from his present soul full of lusts
He must behold thousands of reasonable souls.
Though man fell asleep and forgot his previous states,
Yet God will not leave him in this self-forgetfulness;
And then he will laugh at his own former state
Saying, " What mattered my experiences when asleep?
When I had forgotten my prosperous condition,
And knew not that the grief and ills I experienced
Were the effect of sleep and illusion and fancy?
In like manner this world, which is only a dream.
Seems to the sleeper as a thing enduring for ever
But when the morn of the last day shall dawn,
The sleeper will escape from the cloud of illusion;
Laughter will overpower him at his own fancied grieves
When he beholds his abiding home and place.
Whatever you see in this sleep, both good and evil,
Will all be exposed to view on the resurrection day.
Whatever you have done during your sleep in the world
Will be displayed to you clearly when you awake.
Imagine not that these ill deeds of yours exist not
In this sleep of yours, and will not be revealed to you.
But your present laughter will turn to weeping and woe
On the day of revealing, O you who oppress captives!
Your present wailing and sorrow and grieves,
On the other hand, will be joy when you awake,
O you, who have rent the garments of many Josephs,
You will rise from your heavy sleep as a wolf.
Your bad qualities will rise in the shape of wolves
And rend you limb from limb in vengeance.
By the law of retaliation blood sleeps not after death;
Say not, "I shall die and obtain pardon."
The retaliation of this world is illusive,
It is mere sport compared to the retaliation to come.
Therefore God calls the world "a pastime and a sport," 3
For punishment in this world is sport compared to that.
Here punishment is as the repression of quarrels,
There it is as castration or circumcision.

But this discourse is endless, O Moses,
Go and leave these asses to their grazing!
Let them fatten themselves with the food they love,
For they are very wolves and objects of my wrath.
Zu'l Qarnain at Mount Qaf. 4
Zu'l Qarnain journeyed to Mount Qaf;
He saw it was formed of a bright emerald,
Forming as it were a ring round the world,
Whereat all people are filled with wonder.
He said, "Thou mighty hill, what are other hills?
Before thee they are mere playthings."
The Mount replied, "Those hills are my veins,
But they are not like me in beauty and importance.
A hidden vein from me runs to every city,
The quarters of the world are bound to my veins.
When God desires an earthquake under any city,
He bids me shake one of my veins.
Then in anger I shake that vein
Which is connected with that particular city.
When He says, 'Enough,' my vein remains still,
I remain still, and then haste to perform my work.
Now still like a plaster, and now operating;
Now still like thought, and then speaking my thought.
But they who are void of reason imagine
That these earthquakes proceed from earth's vapors."

Just so an ant who saw a pen writing on paper,
Delivered himself to another ant in this way
'That pen is making very wonderful figures,
Like hyacinths and lilies and roses.'
The other said, 'The finger is the real worker,
The pen is only the instrument of its working.'
A third ant said, ' No; the action proceeds from the arm,
The weak finger writes with the arm's might.'
So it went on upwards, till at last
A prince of the ants, who had some wit
Said, 'Ye regard only the outward form of this marvel,
Which form becomes senseless in sleep and death.
Form is only as a dress or a staff in the hand,
It is only from reason and mind these figures proceed.'
But he knew not that this reason and mind
Would be but lifeless things without God's impulsion.
The angel Gabriel appears to the Prophet Muhammad.
Mustafa said to the angel Gabriel,
"O friend, show me thy form as it really is;
Show it to me openly and perceptibly,
That I may behold thee with my eyes."
Gabriel said, "Thou canst not do so, thou art too weak,
Thy senses are exceeding weak and frail."
Muhammad said, "Show it, that this body of mine may see
To what extent its senses are frail and impotent.
True, man's bodily senses are frail,
But he possesses within him a mighty property. 5
This body resembles flint and steel,
But like them it has the power of kindling fire.
Flint and steel are able to generate fire,
From them springs fire which can destroy its parents."
As he continued importuning him, Gabriel displayed
His awful form, whereat the mountains were rent asunder.
It occupied the sky from east to west.
And Mustafa swooned with fear.
When Gabriel beheld him swooning with fear,
He came and clasped him in his arms.
Address to Husamu-'d-Din.
O light of God, Husamu-'d-Din, admit
This ass's head into that melon-garden!
For when this ass is killed in the slaughter-house
That kitchen will bestow upon him a new existence.
From me proceeds the form, from thee the spirit;
Nay, form and spirit both proceed from thee!
Thou art as Muhammad in heaven, O brilliant Sun!
Be also as Muhammad on earth forever and ever!
So that earth and heaven on high may be united
With one heart, one worship, one aspiration!
And schism and polytheism and duality disappear,
And Unity abide in the Real Spiritual Being!
When my spirit recognizes thy spirit,
We remember our essential union and origin.