Masnavi 1H

HomeIranPoetryMowlana Jalaluddin Rumi - Masnavi Stories

STORY XVI. The Woman who lost all her infants.
A woman bore many children in succession, but none of them lived beyond the age
of three or four months. In great distress she cried to God, and then beheld in
a vision the beautiful gardens of Paradise, and many fair mansions therein, and
upon one of these mansions she read her own name inscribed. And a voice from
heaven informed her that God would accept the sorrows she had endured in lieu
of her blood shed in holy war, as, owing to her sex, she was unable to go out
to battle like the men. On looking again, the woman beheld in Paradise all the
children she had lost, and she cried, "O Lord ! they were lost to me, but
were safe with Thee!"
This story is followed by anecdotos of Hamza going out to battle without his
coat-of-mail, of the Prophet advising a man who complained of being cheated in
his bargains to take time before completing them, and of the death of Bilal,
Muhammad's crier, and by illustrations of the illusive nature of the world, of
the difference between things self-evident and mere matters of inference, and
between knowing a thing through illustrations and on the authority of others
and knowing it as it really is in its essence.
The difference between knowing a thing merely by similitudes and on the authority
of others, and knowing the very essence thereof.
God's mercy is known through the fruits thereof,
But who save God knows His essence? 1
No one knows the very essence of God's attributes
But only in their effects and by similitudes.
A child knows naught of the nature of sexual intercourse,
Except what you tell him, that it is like sweetmeats.
Yet how far does the pleasure of sexual intercourse
Really resemble that derived from sweetmeats?
Nevertheless the fiction produces a relation
Between you, with your perfect knowledge, and the child;
So that the child knows the matter by a similitude,
Though he knows not its essence or actual nature.
Hence if he says, "I know it," 'tis not far wrong
And if he says, "I know it not," 'tis not wrong.
Should one say, "Do you know Noah,
That prophet of God and luminary of the Spirit?"
If you say, "Do I not know him, for that moon
Is more famed than the sun and moon of heaven?
Little children in their schools,
And elders in their mosques,
All read his name prominently in the Koran,
And preachers tell his story from times of yore;"
You say true, for you know him by report,
Though the real nature of Noah is not revealed to you.
On the other hand, if you say, "What know I of Noah
As his contemporaries knew him?
I am a poor ant what can I know of the elephant?
What knows a fly of the motions of the elephant?"
This statement also is true, O brother,
Seeing that you know not his real nature.
But this impotence to perceive real essence,
Though common to ordinary men, is not universal;
Because essence and its deepest secrets
Are open and manifest to the eyes of the perfect.
Negation and affirmation of one proposition are lawful;
When the aspects differ the relation is double.
"Thou castest not when thou castest" 2 shows such relation,
Here negation and affirmation are both correct.
Thou castest it, since it is in thy hand,
Thou castest not, since 'tis God who affords the strength.
The might of the sons of Adam is limited,
How can a handful of sand shatter an army?
The sand was in man's hands, the casting was God's.
Owing to the two relations negation and affirmation are both true.
The infidels know the prophets,
As well as they doubtless know their own children;
Yea, the infidels know them as well as their own sons,
By a hundred tokens and a hundred evidences,
But from envy and malice conceal their knowledge,
And incline themselves to say, "We know them not."
So when God says in one place "knows them,"
In another He says, "None knows them beside me."
For in truth they are hid under God's overshadowing, 3
And none but God knows them by actual experience.
Therefore take this declaration with its context,
Remembering how you know and do not know Noah.