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Maulana Jalalu-'d-din Muhammad Rumi
Masnavi I Ma'navi

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  • Book II.
    • STORY VII. Moses and the Shepherd.
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STORY VII. Moses and the Shepherd.
Next follows an anecdote of Bilkis, Queen of Sheba, whose reason was enlightened by the counsels of the Hoopoo sent to her by King Solomon. Outward sense is as opposed to true reason as Abu Jahl was to Muhammad; and when the outward senses are replaced by the true inner reason, man sees that the body is only foam, and the heart the limitless ocean. Afterwards comes an anecdote of a philosopher who was struck blind for cavilling at the verse, "What think ye? If at early morn your waters shall have sunk away, who will then give you clear running water?" 1 This is succeeded by the story of Moses and the shepherd. Moses once heard a shepherd praying as follows: "O God, show me where thou art, that I may become. Thy servant. I will clean Thy shoes and comb Thy hair, and sew Thy clothes, and fetch Thee milk." When Moses heard him praying in this senseless manner, he rebuked him, saying, "O foolish one, though your father was a Mosalman, you have become an infidel. God is a Spirit, and needs not such gross ministrations as, in your ignorance, you suppose." The shepherd was abashed at his rebuke, and tore his clothes and fled away into the desert. Then a voice from heaven was heard, saying, "O Moses, wherefore have you driven away my servant? Your office is to reconcile my people with me, not to drive them away from me. I have given to each race different usages and forms of praising and adoring me. I have no need of their praises, being exalted above all such needs. I regard not the words that are spoken, but the heart that offers them. I do not require fine words, but a burning heart. Men's ways of showing devotion to me are various, but so long as the devotions are genuine, they are accepted."
Religious forms indifferent.
A voice came from God to Moses,
"Why hast thou sent my servant away?
Thou hast come to draw men to union with me,
Not to drive them far away from me.
So far as possible, engage not in dissevering;
'The thing most repugnant to me is divorce.' 2
To each person have I allotted peculiar forms,
To each have I given particular usages.
What is praiseworthy in thee is blameable in him,
What is poison for thee is honey for him.
What is good in him is bad in thee,
What is fair in him is repulsive in thee.
I am exempt from all purity and impurity,
I need not the laziness or alacrity of my people.
I created not men to gain a profit from them,
But to shower my beneficence upon them.
In the men of Hind the usages of Hind are praiseworthy,
In the men of Sind those of Sind.
I am not purified by their praises,
'Tis they who become pure and shining thereby.
I regard not the outside and the words,
I regard the inside and the state of heart.
I look at the heart if it be humble,
Though the words may be the reverse of humble.
Because the heart is substance, and words accidents,
Accidents are only a means, substance is the final cause.
How long wilt thou dwell on words and superficialities?
A burning heart is what I want; consort with burning!
Kindle in thy heart the flame of love,
And burn up utterly thoughts and fine expressions.
O Moses! the lovers of fair rites are one class,
They whose hearts and souls burn with love are another.
Lovers must burn every moment,
As tax and tithe are levied on a ruined village.
If they speak amiss, call them not sinners;
If a martyr be stained with blood, wash it not away.
Blood is better than water for martyrs,
This fault is better than a thousand correct forms.
No need to turn to the Ka'ba when one is in it,
And divers have no need of shoes.
One does not take a drunken man as a guide on the way,
Nor speak of darns to torn garments.
The sect of lovers is distinct from all others,
Lovers have a religion and a faith of their own.
Though the ruby has no stamp, what matters it?
Love is fearless in the midst of the sea of fear.
Beware, if thou offerest praises or thanksgivings,
And know them to be even as the babble of that shepherd;
Though thy praises be better compared with his,
Yet in regard to God they are full of defects.
How long wilt thou say, 'They obscure the truth,
For it is not such as they fancy'?
Thy own prayers are accepted only through mercy,
They are suffered as the prayers of an impure woman.
If her prayers are made impure by the flow of blood,
Thine are stained with metaphors and similitudes.
Blood is impure, yet its stain is removed by water;
But that impurity of ignorance is more lasting,
Seeing that without the blessed water of God
It is not banished from the man who is subject to it.
O that thou wouldst turn thy face to thy own prayers,
And become cognizant of the meaning of thy ejaculations,
And say, 'Ah! my prayers are as defective as my being;
O requite me good for evil!'"
Moses questions God as to the reason of
the flourishing state of the wicked.
Moses said, "O beneficent Creator,
With whom a moment's remembrance is as long ages,
I see Thy plan distorted in this world of earth and water;
My heart, like the angel's, feels a difficulty thereat.
With what object hast thou framed this plan,
And sowed therein the seeds of evil?
Why hast Thou kindled the fire of violence and wrong?
Why burnt up mosques and them who worship therein?
Paradise is attached to requirements unpleasant to us,
Hell is attached to things flattering our lusts.
The branch full of sap is the main fuel of thy fire.
'They that are burnt with fire are near to Kausar.' 3
Whoso is in prison and acquainted with troubles,
That is in requital for his gluttony and lusts.
Whoso is in a palace and enjoying wealth,
That is in reward for toils and troubles.
Whoso is seen enjoying uncounted gold and silver,
Know that he strove patiently to acquire it.
He, whose soul is exempt from natural conditions,
And who possesses the power of overriding causes,
Can see without causes, like eyes that pierce night;
But thou, who art dependent on sense attend to causes.
Having left Jesus, thou cherishest an ass (lust),
And art perforce excluded, like an ass;
The portion of Jesus is knowledge and wisdom,
Not so the portion of an ass, O asinine one!
Thou pitiest thine ass when it complains;
So art thou ignorant, thy ass makes thee asinine.
Keep thy pity for Jesus, not for the ass,
Make not thy lust to vanquish thy reason.
Leave thy natural lusts to whine and howl,
Tear thee from them, escape that snare of the soul!

1. Koran lxvii. 30.

2. A tradition.

3. A saying of the Prophet.

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