a story from Masnavi Book-I . Original translation is from Sacred Texts
The Prince and the Handmaid.
A prince, while engaged on a hunting excursion, espied a fair maiden, and by promises of gold induced her to accompany him. After a time she fell sick, and the prince had her tended by divers physicians. As, however, they all omitted to say, “God willing,1 we will cure her,” their treatment was of no avail. So the prince offered prayer, and in answer thereto a physician was sent from heaven. He at once condemned his predecessors’ view of the case, and by a very skilful diagnosis, discovered that the real cause of the maiden’s illness was her love for a certain goldsmith of Samarcand. In accordance with the physician’s advice, the prince sent to Samarcand and fetched the goldsmith, and married him to the lovesick maiden, and for six months the pair lived together in the utmost harmony and happiness. At the end of that period the physician, by divine command, gave the goldsmith a poisonous draught, which caused his strength and beauty to decay, and he then lost favour with the maiden, and she was reunited to the king. This Divine command was precisely similar to God’s command to Abraham to slay his son Ishmael, and to the act of the angel in slaying the servant of Moses,2 and is therefore beyond human criticism.
Description of Love.
A true lover is proved such by his pain of heart;
No sickness is there like sickness of heart.
The lover’s ailment is different from all ailments;
Love is the astrolabe of God’s mysteries.
A lover may hanker after this love or that love,
But at the last he is drawn to the KING of love.
However much we describe and explain love,
When we fall in love we are ashamed of our words.
Explanation by the tongue makes most things clear,
But love unexplained is clearer.
When pen hasted to write,
On reaching the subject of love it split in twain.
When the discourse touched on the matter of love,
Pen was broken and paper torn.
In explaining it Reason sticks fast, as an ass in mire;
Naught but Love itself can explain love and lovers!
None but the sun can display the sun,
If you would see it displayed, turn not away from it.
Shadows, indeed, may indicate the sun’s presence,
But only the sun displays the light of life.
Shadows induce slumber, like evening talks,
But when the sun arises the “moon is split asunder.” 3
In the world there is naught so wondrous as the sun,
But the Sun of the soul sets not and has no yesterday.
Though the material sun is unique and single,
We can conceive similar suns like to it.
But the Sun of the soul, beyond this firmament,
No like thereof is seen in concrete or abstract.4
Where is there room in conception for His essence,
So that similitudes of HIM should be conceivable?
Shamsu-‘d-Din of Tabriz importunes Jalalu-‘d-Din
to compose the Masnavi.
The sun (Shams) of Tabriz is a perfect light,
A sun, yea, one of the beams of God!
When the praise was heard of the “Sun of Tabriz,”
The sun of the fourth heaven bowed its head.
Now that I have mentioned his name, it is but right
To set forth some indications of his beneficence.
That precious Soul caught my skirt,
Smelling the perfume of the garment of Yusuf;
And said, “For the sake of our ancient friendship,
Tell forth a hint of those sweet states of ecstasy,
That earth and heaven may be rejoiced,
And also Reason and Spirit, a hundredfold.”
I said, “O thou who art far from ‘ The Friend,’
Like a sick man who has strayed from his physician,
Importune me not, for I am beside myself;
My understanding is gone, I cannot sing praises.
Whatsoever one says, whose reason is thus astray,
Let him not boast; his efforts are useless.
Whatever he says is not to the point,
And is clearly inapt and wide of the mark.
What can I say when not a nerve of mine is sensible?
Can I explain ‘The Friend’ to one to whom He is no Friend?
Verily my singing His praise were dispraise,
For ‘twould prove me existent, and existence is error.5
Can I describe my separation and my bleeding heart?
Nay, put off this matter till another season.”
He said, ” Feed me, for I am an hungered,
And at once, for ‘the time is a sharp sword.’
O comrade, the Sufi is ‘the son of time present.’ 6
It is not the rule of his canon to say, ‘To-morrow.’
Can it be that thou art not a true Sufi?
Ready money is lost by giving credit.”
I said, “‘Tis best to veil the secrets of ‘The Friend.’
So give good heed to the morals of these stories.
That is better than that the secrets of ‘The Friend’
Should be noised abroad in the talk of strangers.”
He said, “Without veil or covering or deception,
Speak out, and vex me not, O man of many words!
Strip off the veil and speak out, for do not I
Enter under the same coverlet as the Beloved?”
I said, “If the Beloved were exposed to outward view,
Neither wouldst thou endure, nor embrace, nor form.
Press thy suit, yet with moderation;
A blade of grass cannot, pierce a mountain.
If the sun that illumines the world
Were to draw nigher, the world would be consumed.7
Close thy mouth and shut the eyes of this matter,
That, the world’s life be not made a bleeding heart.
No longer seek this peril, this bloodshed;
Hereafter impose silence on the ‘Sun of Tabriz.'”
He said, “Thy words are endless. Now tell forth
All thy story from its beginning.”
1. As enjoined in Koran xviii. 23. One cannot converse with a strict Mosalman for five minutes without hearing the formula, “In sha Allah Ta’alla,” or D. V.
2. Koran xviii. 73.
3. Koran liv. I.
4. There is a tradition, “I know my Lord by my Lord.”
5. See Gulshan i Raz, I. 400. In the state of union self remains not.
6. The Sufi is the “son of the time present,” because he is an Energumen, or passive instrument moved by the divine impulse of the moment. “The time present is a sharp sword,” because the divine impulse of the moment dominates the Energumen, and executes its decrees sharply. See Sohravardi quoted in Notices et Extraits des MSS., xii. 371 note.
7. “When its Lord appears in glory to the Mount of existence, Existence is laid low, like the dust of the road.” Gulshan i Raz, I. 195.