Masnavi 2B

HomeIranPoetryMowlana Jalaluddin Rumi - Masnavi Stories

STORY V. The Sufi and the Qazi.
A sick man laboring under an incurable disease went to a physician for advice.
The physician felt his pulse, and perceived that no treatment would cure him,
and therefore told him to go away and do whatever he had a fancy for. This was
the advice given by God to the Israelites when they were seen to be incurable
by the admonitions of the prophets. "Do what you will, but God's eye is on
all your doings." 1 The sick man blessed the physician for his
agreeable prescription, and at once went to a stream, where he saw a Sufi
bathing his feet. He was seized with a desire to hit the Sufi on the back, and,
calling to mind the physician's advice, at once carried his wish into effect.
The Sufi jumped up, and was about to return the blow, but when he saw the
weakly and infirm condition of his assailant he restrained himself. He
disregarded his present angry impulse, and had regard to the future, so that
the non-existent future became to him more really existent than the existing
present. Here the poet digresses to point out that when wise men recognize the
true relative importance of the present and the future they cease to shrink
from death and annihilation, which lifts them to a higher and nobler life. This
is illustrated by an anecdote of Mahmud of Ghazni, quoted from Faridu- 'd-Din
'Attar. Mahmud, in one of his campaigns, took prisoner a Hindu boy, who at
first regarded him with the greatest dread, in consequence of the stories he
had heard of him from his mother, but afterwards experienced Mahmud's kindness
and tenderness, and came to know him and love him. So it is with death.
According to the Hadis "Those who have passed away do not grieve because
of death, but because of wasted opportunities in life." The Masnavi is
"a shop of poverty and self-abnegation," and a treasury containing
only the doctrines of "Unity;" and if its stories suggest aught else,
that is due to the evil promptings of Iblis, who also misled the Prophet
himself to attribute undue power to the idols Lat and 'Uzza and Manat, in a
verse which was afterwards cancelled. 2 The Sufi, being full of the
spirit of self-abnegation, did not retaliate on his weak, assailant but led him
before the Qazi. On learning the facts of the case the Qazi said, "This
Faqir is sick to death, and you, being a Sufi, are, according to your
profession, dead to the world. How, then, can I award a penalty against him in
your favor? I am a judge, not of the dead, but of the living." The Sufi
was dissatisfied with this view of the case, and again pressed the Qazi to do
him justice. On this the Qazi asked the sick Faqir how much money he had, and
on his replying, "Six dirhams," took pity on him, and let him off
with a fine of three dirhams only. The moment the sentence was pronounced the
sick Faqir went up to the Qazi and struck him a blow on the back, and cried
out, "Now take the other three dirhams and let me go!" The Sufi then
pointed out to the Qazi that by his ill-timed leniency to the Faqir he had
brought this blow upon himself, and urged him to apply in his own case those
principles of mercy and forgiveness which he had proposed in the case of
another. The Qazi said that, for his part, he recognized every blow and
misfortune that might befall him as divinely ordained, and sent for his good,
according to the text, "Laugh little and weep much," 3 and
that his judgment in the matter of the Faqir had not been dictated by impulse,
but by inspiration. 4 The Sufi again asked him how evils and
misfortunes could proceed from the divine fount of good, and the Qazi replied
that what seems good and evil to us has no absolute existence, but is merely as
the foam on the surface of the vast ocean. Moreover, every misfortune occurring
to the faithful in this life will be amply compensated for in the life to come.
The Sufi asked why this world should not be so arranged that only good should
be experienced in it, and the Qazi replied by telling him an anecdote of a Turk
and a tailor. The Turk, who typifies the careless pleasure-seeker, was so intent
on listening to the jokes and amusing stories of the tailor, typifying the
seductive world, that he allowed himself to be robbed of the silk which was to
furnish him with a vesture for eternity. The Sufi again retorted that he did
not see why the world would not get on better without the evil in it, and the
Qazi replied with the poet's favorite argument that there would be no
possibility of being virtuous if there were no temptations to be vicious. As
Bishop Butler says, this life is a state of probation, and such a state
necessarily involves trials and difficulties and dangers to be resisted and
The dead regret not dying, but having lost opportunities in life.
Well said that Leader of mankind,
That whosoever passes away from the world
Does not grieve and lament over his death,
But grieves ever over lost opportunities.
He says, "Why did I not keep death always in view,
Which is the treasury of wealth and sustenance?
Why did I blindly all my life set my affections
On vain shadows which perish at death?
My regret is not that I have died,
But that I rested on these vain shadows in life.
I saw not that my body was a mere shadow or foam,
Which foam rises out of and lives on the Ocean (God).
When the Ocean casts its foam-drops to land,
Go to the graveyard and behold them,
And ask them, "Where is your motion and activity?
The Ocean has cast you into a mortal sickness!"
They will answer by their condition, if not with words,
"Put this question to the Ocean, not to us!"
How can mere foam move unless moved by the waves?
How can dust mount on high unless raised by wind?
When you see the dust-cloud, see the wind too!
When you see the foam, see the ocean that heaves it!
Ah! look till you see your own real final cause,
The rest of you is only fat and flesh, warp and woof.
Your fat kindles no light or flame in a lamp;
Your kneaded flesh is not good for roasting.
Burn up, then, all this body of yours with discernment;
Rise to sight, to sight, to sight!
Virtue cannot exist without temptation and difficulties to be overcome.
The Sufi said, "The Great Helper is able
To procure for us profit without loss.
He who casts into the fire roses and trees
Can accomplish good without injury to any.
He who extracts the rose from the thorn
Can also turn this winter into spring.
He who exalts the heads of the cypresses
Is able also out of sadness to bring joy.
He by whose fiat all non-existent things exist,
What harm to Him were it if He made them eternal?
He who gave to the body a soul and made it live,
What loss to Him were it if He never caused it to die?
How would it be if That Liberal One were to give
Their hearts' desire to his slaves without toil,
And keep away from these feeble ones
The ambushed snares of lust and temptations of Iblis?"
The Qazi said, "If there were no bitter things,
And no opposition of fair and foul, stone and pearl,
And no lust or Satan or concupiscence,
And no wounds or war or fraud,
Pray, O destroyer of virtue, by what name and title
Could the King of kings address His slaves?
How could He say, 'O temperate or O meek one!'
Or, 'O courageous one, or O wise one?'
How could there be temperate, gentle, or liberal men
If there were no cursed Satan to tempt them astray?
Rustam and Hamza would be all the same as cowards;
Wisdom and knowledge would be useless and vain.
Wisdom and knowledge serve to guide the wanderers;
Were there but one road wisdom would be needless.
To pamper the house of your body fleeting as water,
Do you think it right to ruin both worlds?
I know you are pure of guile and ripe,
And ask this only to edify the ignorant.
The ills of fortune and all troubles soever
Are better than exile from God and neglect of Him;
For the former pass away, but the latter abide;
He is happy who carries a wary heart before God." 5
This is illustrated by an anecdote of a woman who complained of the hard life
she had to lead with her husband owing to his poverty, and was silenced by
being asked whether she would prefer to be divorced. No troubles are so hard to
hear as separation from the Beloved. Fasting and holy war bring pains with
them, but not so great as those incurred by banishment from God. In the midst
of their troubles God is ever caring for His servants, and they must not let
their tribulations blot out the memory of God's previous goodness to them.
To do this shows an entire absence of growth in grace. This is illustrated by
an anecdote of a sage and a monk. The sage asked the monk which was the older,
his white beard or himself. The monk replied that he himself was older by some
years, whereupon the sage rebuked him for his ignorance, saying his beard had
grown pure and white, but he was still black with sin, and had progressed not
at all in goodness since he was born.
Each of our members testifies to God's bounties towards us.
Inquire now, I pray, of each one of your members;
These dumb members have a thousand tongues.
Inquire the detail of the bounties of the All-sustainer,
Which are recorded in the volume of the universe.
Day and night you are eagerly asking for news,
Whilst every member of your body is telling you news.
Since each member of your body issued from Not-being,
How much pleasure has it seen, and how much pain?
For no member grows and flourishes without pleasure,
And each member is weakened by every pain. 6
The member endures, but that pleasure is forgotten,
Yet not all forgotten, but hidden from the senses.
Like summer wherein cotton is produced,
The cotton remains, but the summer is forgotten.
Or like ice which is formed in great frost,
The frost departs, but the ice is still before us.
The ice is mindful of that extreme cold,
And even in winter that crop is mindful of the summer.
In like manner, O son, every member of your body
Tells you tales of God's bounties to your body.
Even as a woman who has borne twenty children,
Each child tells a tale of pleasure felt by her.
She became not pregnant save after sexual pleasure,
Can a garden bloom without the spring?
Pregnant women and their teeming wombs
Tell tales of love frolics in the spring.
So every tree which nurtures its fruits
Has been, like Mary, impregnated by the Unseen King.
Though fire's heat be hidden in the midst of water,
Yet a thousand boiling bubbles prove it present.
Though the heat of the fire be working unseen,
Yet its bubbles signify its presence plainly.
In like manner, the members of those enjoying "union"
Become big with child, viz., with forms of "states" and
"words." 7
Gazing on the beauty of these forms they stand agape,
And the forms of the world vanish from their sight.
These spiritual progenies are not born of the elements,
And are perforce invisible to the sensual eye.
These progenies are born of divine apparitions,
And are therefore bidden by veils without color.
I said "born," but in reality they are not born;
I used this expression only by way of indication.
But keep silence till the King bids you speak,
Offer not your nightingale songs to these roses;
For they themselves are saying to you in loud tones,
"O nightingale, hold your peace, and listen to us!"
Those two kinds of fair forms (ecstatic states and words)
Are undeniable proofs of a previous "union;"
Yea, those two kinds of exalted manifestations
Are the evident fruits of a preceding wedlock.
The ecstasy is past, but your members recall it;
Ask them about it, or call it to mind yourself.
When sorrow seizes you, if you are wise,
You will question that sorrow-fraught moment,
Saying to it, "O sorrow, who now deniest
Thy portion of bounty given thee by the Perfect One,
Even if each moment be not to thee a glad spring,
Yet of what is thy body, like a rose-heap, a storehouse?
Thy body is a heap of roses, thy thought rosewater;
'Twere strange if rosewater ignored the rose-heap!"