Masnavi 07

HomeIranPoetryMowlana Jalaluddin Rumi - Masnavi Stories

STORY VI. Omar and the Ambassador.
The hare, having delivered his companions from the tyranny of the lion, in the
manner just described, proceeds to improve the occasion by exhorting them to
engage in a greater and more arduous warfare, viz., the struggle against their
inward enemy, the lusts of the flesh. He illustrates his meaning by the story
of an ambassador who was sent by the Emperor of Rum to the Khalifa 'Omar. On approaching
Medina this ambassador inquired for 'Omar's palace, and learned that 'Omar
dwelt in no material palace, but in a spiritual tabernacle, only visible to
purified hearts. At last he discerned 'Omar lying under a palm-tree, and drew
near to him in fear and awe. 'Omar received him kindly, and instructed him in
the doctrine of the mystical union with God. The ambassador heard him gladly,
and asked him two questions, first, How can souls descend from heaven to earth?
and secondly, With what object are souls imprisoned in the bonds of flesh and
blood? 'Omar responded, and the ambassador accepted his teaching, and became a
pure-hearted Sufi. The hare urged his companions to abjure lust and pride, and
to go and do likewise.
God's agency reconciled with man's freewill.
The ambassador said, "O Commander of the faithful,
How comes the soul down from above to earth?
How can so noble a bird be confined in a cage?"
He said, "God speaks words of power to souls,
To things of naught, without eyes or ears,
And at these words they all spring into motion;
At His words of power these nothings arise quickly,
And strong impulse urges them into existence.
Again, He speaks other spells to these creatures,
And swiftly drives them back again into Not-being.
He speaks to the rose's ear, and causes it to bloom;
He speaks to the tulip, and makes it blossom.
He speaks a spell to body, and it becomes soul;
He speaks to the sun, and it becomes a fount of light.
Again, in its ear He whispers a word of power,
And its face is darkened as by a hundred eclipses.
What is it that God says to the ear of earth,
That it attends thereto and rests steadfast?
What is it that Speaker says to the cloud,
That it pours forth rain-water like a water-skin?
Whosoever is bewildered by wavering will, 1
In his ear hath God whispered His riddle,
That He may bind him on the horns of a dilemma;
For he says, 'Shall I do this or its reverse?'
Also from God comes the preference of one alternative;
'Tis from God's impulsion that man chooses one of the two.
If you desire sanity in this embarrassment,
Stuff not the ear of your mind with cotton.
Take the cotton of evil suggestions from the mind's ear, 2
That the heavenly voice from above may enter it,
That you may understand that riddle of His,
That you may be cognisant of that open secret.
Then the mind's ear becomes the sensorium of inspiration;
For what is this Divine voice but the inward voice? 3
The spirit's eye and ear possess this sense,
The eye and ear of reason and sense lack it.
The word 'compulsion' makes me impatient for love's sake;
'Tis he who loves not who is fettered by compulsion.
This is close communion with God, not compulsion,
The shining of the sun, and not a dark cloud.
Or, if it be compulsion, 'tis not common compulsion,
It is not the domination of wanton wilfulness.
O son, they understand this compulsion
For whom God opens the eyes of the inner man.
Things hidden and things future are plain to them;
To speak of the past seems to them despicable.
They possess freewill and compulsion besides, 4
As in oyster-shells raindrops are pearls.
Outside the shell they are raindrops, great and small;
Inside they are precious pearls, big and little.
These men also resemble the musk deer's bag;
Outside it is blood, but inside pure musk;
Yet, say not that outside 'twas mere blood,
Which on entering the bag becomes musk.
Nor say that outside the alembic 'twas mere copper,
And becomes gold inside, when mixed with elixir.
In you freewill and compulsion are vain fancies,
But in them they are the light of Almighty power.
On the table bread is a mere lifeless thing,
When taken into the body it is a life-giving spirit.
This transmutation occurs not in the table's heart,
'Tis soul effects this transmutation with water of life.
Such is the power of the soul, O man of right views!
Then what is the power of the Soul of souls? (God).
Bread is the food of the body, yet consider,
How can it be the food of the soul, O son?
Flesh-born man by force of soul
Cleaves mountains with tunnels and mines.
The might of Ferhad's soul cleft a hill;
The might of the Soul's soul cleaves the moon; 5
If the heart opens the mouth of mystery's store,
The soul springs up swiftly to highest heaven.
If tongue discourses of hidden mysteries,
It kindles a fire that consumes the world.
Behold, then, God's action and man's action;
Know, action does belong to us ; this is evident.
If no actions proceeded from men,
How could you say, 'Why act ye thus?'
The agency of God is the cause of our action,
Our actions are the signs of God's agency;
Nevertheless our actions are freely willed by us,
Whence our recompense is either hell or 'The Friend.'"