Masnavi 1T

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Book V.

STORY I. The Prophet and his Infidel Guest.

AFTER the usual address to Husamu-'d-Din follows a comment on the precept
addressed to Abraham, "Take four birds and draw them towards thee, and cut
them in pieces." 1 The birds are explained to be the duck of
gluttony, the cock of concupiscence, the peacock of ambition and ostentation,
and the crow of bad desires, and this is made the text of several stories.
Beginning with gluttony, the poet tells the following story to illustrate the
occasion of the Prophet's uttering the saying, Infidels eat with seven bellies,
but the faithful with one." One day some infidels begged food and lodging
of the Prophet. The Prophet was moved by their entreaties, and desired each of
his disciples to take one of the infidels to his house and feed and lodge him,
remarking that it was their duty to show kindness to strangers at his command,
as much as to do battle with his foes. So each disciple selected one of the infidels
and carried him off to his house; but there was one big and coarse man, a very
giant Og, whom no one would receive, and the Prophet took him to his own house.
In his house the Prophet had seven she-goats to supply his family with milk,
and the hungry infidel devoured all the milk of those seven goats, to say
nothing of bread and other viands. He left not a drop for the Prophet's family,
who were therefore much annoyed with him, and when he retired to his chamber
one of the servant-maids locked him in. During the night the infidel felt very
unwell in consequence of having overeaten himself, and tried to get out into
the open air, but was unable to do so, owing to the door being locked. Finally,
he was very sick, and defiled his bedding. In the morning he was extremely
ashamed, and the moment the door was opened he ran away. The Prophet was aware
of what had happened, but let the man escape, so as not to put him to shame.
After he had gone the servants saw the mess he had made, and informed the
Prophet of it; but the Prophet made light of it, and said he would clean it up
himself. His friends were shocked at the thought of the Prophet soiling his
sacred hands with such filth, and tried to prevent him, but he persisted in
doing it, calling to mind the text, "As thou livest, O Muhammad, they were
bewildered by drunkenness," 2 and being, in fact, urged to it by a
divine command. While he was engaged in the work the infidel came back to look
for a talisman which he had left behind him in his hurry to escape, and seeing
the Prophet's occupation he burst into tears, and bewailed his own filthy
conduct. The Prophet consoled him, saying that weeping and penitence would
purge the offence, for God says, "Little let them laugh, and much let them
weep;" 3 and again, "Lend God a liberal loan;" 4
and again, "God only desireth to put away filthiness from you as His
household, and with cleansing to cleanse you." 5 Prophet then
urged him to bear witness that God was the Lord, even as was done by the sons
of Adam, 6 explained how the outward acts of prayer and fasting bear
witness of the spiritual light within. After being nurtured on this spiritual
food the infidel confessed the truth of Islam, and renounced his infidelity and
gluttony. He returned thanks to the Prophet for bringing him to the knowledge
of the true faith and regenerating him, even as 'Isa had regenerated Lazarus.
The Prophet was satisfied of his sincerity, and asked him to sup with him
again. At supper he drank only half the portion of milk yielded by one goat,
and steadfastly refused to take more, saying he felt perfectly satisfied with
the little he had already taken. The other guests marveled much to see his
gluttony so soon cured, and were led to reflect on the virtues of the spiritual
food administered to him by the Prophet.
Outward acts bear witness of the state of the heart within.
Prayer and fasting and pilgrimage and holy war
Bear witness of the faith of the heart.
Giving alms and offerings and quitting avarice
Also bear witness of the secret thoughts.
So, a table spread for guests serves as a plain sign,
Saying, "O guest, I am your sincere well-wisher."
So, offerings and presents and oblations
Bear witness, saying, "I am well pleased with you."
Each of these men lavishes his wealth or pains,
What means it but to say, "I have a virtue within me,
Yea, a virtue of piety or liberality,
Whereof my oblations and fasting bear witness"?
Fasting proclaims that he abstains from lawful food,
And that therefore he doubtless avoids unlawful food.
And his alms say, "He gives away his own goods;
It is therefore plain that he does not rob others."
If he acts thus from fraud, his two witnesses
(Fasting and alms) are rejected in God's court;
If the hunter scatters grain
Not out of mercy, but to catch game;
If the cat keeps fast, and remains still
In fasting only to entrap unwary birds;
Making hundreds of people suspicious,
And giving a bad name to men who fast and are liberal;
Yet the grace of God, despite this fraud,
May ultimately purge him from all this hypocrisy.
Mercy may prevail over vengeance, and give the hypocrite
Such light as is not possessed by the full moon.
God may purge his dealings from that hypocrisy,
And in mercy wash him clean of that defilement.
In order that the pardoning grace of God may be seen,
God pardons all sins that need pardon.
Wherefore God rains down water from the sign Pisces,
To purify the impure from their impurities. 7
Thus acts and words are witnesses of the mind within,
From these two deduce inferences as to the thoughts.
When your vision cannot penetrate within,
Inspect the water voided by the sick man.
Acts and words resemble the sick man's water,
Which serves as evidence to the physician of the body.
But the physician of the spirit penetrates the soul,
And thence ascertains the man's faith.
Such an one needs not the evidence of fair acts and words
"Beware of such, they spy out the heart."
Require this evidence of act and word only from one
Who is not joined to the divine Ocean like a stream.
But the light of the traveler arrived at the goal,
Verily that light fills deserts and wastes.
That witness of his is exempt from bearing witness,
And from all trouble and risk and good works.
Since the brilliance of that jewel beams forth,
It is exempted from these obligations.
Wherefore require not from him act and word evidence,
Because both worlds through him bloom like roses.
What is this evidence but manifestation of hidden things,
Whether it be evidence in word, or deed, or otherwise?
Accidents serve only to manifest the secret essence;
The essential quality abides, and accidents pass away.
This mark of gold endures not the touchstone,
But only the gold itself, genuine and undoubted.
These prayers and holy war and fasting
Will not endure, only the noble soul endures.
The soul exhibits acts and words of this sort,
Then it rubs its substance on the touchstone of God's command,
Saying, "My faith is true, behold my witnesses!"
But witnesses are open to suspicion.
Know that witnesses must be purified,
And their purification is sincerity, on that you may depend.
The witness of word consists in speaking the truth,
The witness of acts in keeping one's promises.
If the witness of word lie, its evidence is rejected,
And if the witness of act play false, it is rejected.
Your words and acts must be without self-contradiction
In order to be accepted without question.
"Your aims are different," 8 and you contradict yourselves,
You sew by day, and tear to pieces by night.
How can God listen to such contradictory witness,
Unless He be pleased to decide on it in mercy?
Act and word manifest the secret thoughts and mind,
Both of them expose to view the veiled secret.
When your witnesses are purified they are accepted,
Otherwise they are arrested and kept in durance.
They enter into conflict with you, O stiff-necked one;
"Stand aloof and wait for them, for they too wait." 9
Prayers for spiritual enlightenment.
O God, who hast no peer, bestow Thy favor upon me;
Since Thou hast with this discourse put a ring in my ear,
Take me by the ear, and draw me into that holy assembly
Where Thy saints in ecstasy drink of Thy pure wine!
Now that Thou hast caused me to smell its perfume,
Withhold not from me that musky wine, O Lord of faith
Of Thy bounty all partake, both men and women,
Thou art ungrudging in bounties, O Hearer of prayer.
Prayers are granted by Thee before they are uttered,
Thou openest the door to admit hearts every moment!
How many letters Thou writest with Thy Almighty pen!
Through marveling thereat stones become as wax.
Thou writest the Nun of the brow, the Sad of the eye,
And the Jim of the ear, to amaze reason and sense.
These letters exercise and perplex reason;
Write on, O skilful Fair-writer!
Imprinting every moment on Not-being the fair forms
Of the world of ideals, to confound all thought! 10
Yea, copying thereon the fair letters of the page of ideals,
To wit, eye and brow and moustache and mole!
For me, I will be a lover of Not-being, not of existence,
Because the beloved of Not-being is more blessed. 11
God made reason a reader of all these letters,
To suggest to it reflections on that outpouring of grace. 12
Reason, like Gabriel, learns day by day
Its daily portion from the "Indelible Tablet." 13
Behold the letters written without hands on Not-being!
Behold the perplexity of mankind at those letters!
Every one is bewildered by these thoughts,
And digs for hidden treasure in hope to find it.
This bewilderment of mankind as to their true aims is compared to the bewilderment
of men in the dark looking in all directions for the Qibla, and recalls the
text, "O the misery that rests upon my servants." 14
Then follow reflections on the sacrifice by Abraham of the peacock of ambition
and ostentation. Next comes a discourse on the thesis that all men can
recognize the mercies of God and the wrath of God; but God's mercies are often
hidden in His chastisements, and vice versa, and it is only men of deep
spiritual discernment who can recognize acts of mercy and acts of wrath
concealed in their opposites. The object of this concealment is to try and test
men's dispositions; according to the text, "To prove which of you will be
most righteous in deed." 15