Masnavi 12

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Book III.


STORY I. The Travelers who ate the Young Elephant.

A PARTY of travelers lost their way in a wilderness, and were well nigh
famished with hunger. While they were considering what to do, a sage came up and
condoled with them on their unfortunate plight. He told them that there were
many young elephants in the adjacent woods, one of which would furnish them an
ample meal, but at the same time he warned them that if they killed one, its
parents would in all probability track them out and be revenged on them for
killing their offspring. Shortly after the travelers saw a plump young
elephant, and could not resist killing and eating it. One alone refrained. Then
they lay down to rest; but no sooner were they fast asleep than a huge elephant
made his appearance and proceeded to smell the breath of each one of the
sleepers in turn. Those whom he perceived to have eaten of the young elephant's
flesh he slew without mercy, sparing only the one who had been prudent enough
to abstain.
God's care for His children.
O son, the pious are God's children,
Absent or present He is informed of their state.
Deem Him not absent when they are endangered,
For He is jealous for their lives.
He saith, "These saints are my children,
Though remote and alone and away from their Lord.
For their trial they are orphans and wretched,
Yet in love I am ever holding communion with them.
Thou art backed by all my protection;
My children are, as it were, parts of me.
Verily these Darveshes of mine
Are thousands on thousands, and yet no more than One;
For if not, how did Moses with one magic staff
Turn the realm of Pharaoh upside down?
And if it were not so, how did Noah with one curse
Make East and West alike drowned in his flood?
Nor could one prayer of eloquent Lot
Have razed their strong city against their will,
Their mighty city, like to Paradise,
Became as a Tigris of black water; go, see its vestige!
Towards Syria is this vestige and memorial,
Thou seest it in passing on the way to Jerusalem.
Thousands of God-fearing prophets
In every age hold divine chastisements in hand.
Should I tell of them my limits would be exceeded,
And not hearts only but very hills would bleed."
Evil deeds give men's prayers an ill savour in Gods nostrils.
Thou art asleep, and the smell of that forbidden fruit
Ascends to the azure skies,
Ascends along with thy foul breath,
Till it overpowers heaven with stench;
Stench of pride, stench of lust, stench of greed.
All these stink like onions when a man speaks.
Though thou swearest, saying, "When have I eaten?
Have I not abstained from onions and garlic?"
The very breath of that oath tells tales,
As it strikes the nostrils of them that sit with thee.
So too prayers are made invalid by such stenches, 1
That crooked heart is betrayed by its speech.
The answer to that prayer is, "Be ye driven into hell," 2
The staff of repulsion is the reward of all deceit.
But, if thy speech be crooked and thy meaning straight,
Thy crookedness of words will be accepted of God.
That faithful Bilal, when he called to prayer,
Would devoutly cry, "Come hither, come hither!"
At last men said, "O Prophet, this call is not right,
This is wrong; now, what is thy intention?
O Prophet, and O ambassador of the Almighty,
Provide another Mu'azzin of better talent.
'Tis an error at the beginning of our divine worship
To utter the words, 'Come to the asylum!'" 3
The wrath of the Prophet boiled up, and he said
(Uttering one or two secrets from the fount of grace),
"O base ones, in God's sight the 'Ho!' of Bilal
Is better than a hundred 'Come hithers' and ejaculations.
Ah! excite not a tumult, lest I tell forth openly
Your secret thoughts from first to last.
If ye keep not your breath sweet in prayer,
Go, desire a prayer from the Brethren of Purity!"
For this cause spake God to Moses,
At the time he was asking aid in prayer,
"O Moses! desire protection of me
With a mouth that thou hast not sinned withal."
Moses answered, "I possess not such a mouth."
God said, "Call upon me with another mouth!
Act so that all thy mouths
By night and by day may be raising prayers.
When thou hast sinned with one mouth,
With thy other mouth cry, 'O Allah!'
Or else cleanse thy own mouth,
And make thy spirit alert and quick.
Calling on God is pure, and when purity approaches,
Impurity arises and takes its departure.
Contraries flee away from contraries;
When day dawns night takes flight.
When the pure name (of God) enters the mouth,
Neither does impurity nor that impure mouth remain!"
The man whose calling "O Allah" was equivalent
to God's answering him, "Here am I" 4.

That person one night was crying, "O Allah!"
That his mouth might be sweetened thereby,
And Satan said to him, "Be quiet, O austere one!
How long wilt thou babble, O man of many words?
No answer comes to thee from nigh the throne,
How long wilt thou cry 'Allah' with harsh face?"
That person was sad at heart and hung his head,
And then beheld Khizr present before him in a vision,
Who said to him, "Ah! thou hast ceased to call on God,
Wherefore repentest thou of calling upon Him?"
The man said, "The answer 'Here am I' came not,
Wherefore I fear that I am repulsed from the door."
Khizr replied to him, "God has given me this command;
Go to him and say, 'O much-tried one,
Did not I engage thee to do my service?
Did not I engage thee to call upon me?
That calling 'Allah' of thine was my 'Here am I,'
And that pain and longing and ardour of thine my messenger;
Thy struggles and strivings for assistance
Were my attractions, and originated thy prayer.
Thy fear and thy love are the cove,rt of my mercy,
Each 'O Lord!' of thine contains many 'Here am I's."
The soul of fools is alien from this calling on God,
Because it is not their wont to cry, 'O Lord!'
On their mouths and hearts are locks and bonds, 5
That they may not cry to God in time of distress.
God gave Pharaoh abundance of riches and wealth,
So that he boasted that he was 'Lord Supreme.'
In the whole of his life he suffered no headache,
So that he never cried to God, wretch that he was.
God granted him the absolute dominion of the world,
But withheld from him pain and sorrow and cares;
Because pain and sorrow and loads of cares
Are the lot of God's friends in the world.
Pain is better than the dominion of the world,
So that thou mayest call on God in secret.
The cries of those free from pain are dull and cold,
The cries of the sorrowful come from the burning hearts."