Masnavi, Daftar 1, Verse 15-24

Vol.1, v. 15-24

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In our sorrows all the days are wasted
The days and the burns companying each other

در غمِ ما روزها بیگاه شد
روزها با سوزها همراه شد


If the days have passed say: “Then Go! There are no fears
You stay O The One! that as pure as You there is nothing ”

روزها گر رفت گو رَوْ باک نیست
تو بمان ای آنکِ چون تو پاک نیست

Bigāh: The time of the sunset, metaphorically the past time, like the dusk which is the end of the day.

The basic bottom line of life is to gain provision and have pleasure; but from the point of view of the lover reaching the beloved is all that matters and life (without the lover’s beloved) has no value whatsoever; the passing away of life is of no consequence as long as the goal is to reach the beloved.

What has value is the outer-limit of life i.e.That Beloved; once reaching the beloved is assured, then there are no regrets about the time that has passed.

Every pain of the body or the mind, your every sorrow and those of others, every foul behavior, every bit of greed and misfortune, all these are the immediate consequences of someone, someplace, within the cosmos, who has neglected, for one meager moment, to seek That Divine Beloved !

Whoever unlike the fish is quenched with his water
Like unto a pauper that with little provision is satiate

هر كه جز ماهی ز آبش سیر شد
هر که بی روزیست روزش دیر شد

Birūzi: To be deprived and poor without anything.

Dir Shudan-eh Rūz: Satiation.

We all know that fish can only live in water and dies if placed in any other substance. Similarly, the truthful lover cannot live without ‘Ishq (Unrestrained Love); for the only life-sustaining substance of his habitat is ‘Ishq (Unrestrained Love). He seeks the aid of love to feed his soul in order to gain strength to go on.

Therefore, the lover, like the fish, is never satiated. Even at the end of his path of seeking That Beloved, the lover is still thirsting and begging for more. Since the beauty and perfection of That Absolute Beloved have no boundaries, thus the burning and thirsting of the lover upon the path of Haqiqat (Absolute Truth and Reality) has no end.

There is never satiation for the lover, as the sea-water brings no quenching and instead produces more thirst. The stages of Suluk (Voyage) to the Haqiqat (Absolute Reality) make the seekers  increasingly heated and thirsty, since the attainment of the higher stages of the Suluk (Voyage) only increases the seeker’s capacity i.e. the capacity for loving and enduring the loss of That Divine Beloved.

Indeed, the individuals who seek the clear waters of Ma’refa (Divine Gnosis) find no satisfaction with any amount of knowledge and consider satisfaction with one’s own knowledge—on this path—a lack of capacity and absence of focus. Like the residents of Hell, the men of knowledge could gulp down ocean after ocean while their lips remain parched:

Yahya Bin Mu’az wrote a letter to Ba Yazid Bastami stating: “What would you say of a person who drank a goblet of wine and became an eternal (Abad) sempiternal (Azal) drunkard ?” Ba Yazid replied: “I do not know about that but I know that there is a person here who in one day drinks down the oceans of eternity and sempiternity and at the end screams: “Hal Min Mazid (Is there anymore?)” (Surat Qaf, 50:30)- (Source: Tadhkirat Al-Aulia).

The second verse emphasizes the same concept as above: “Spiritual satiation is an indication of spiritual poverty just like a pauper is satisfied with a little coin. Why? Because that precious most desired One much like a rare jewel cannot be easy to acquired; without having taken many risks and faced many dangers, men have no chance of acquiring bewildering objects of all desires!”

‘Ishq (Unrestrained Love) does not coexist with tranquility and calm. The Path of Seeking is riddled with horrors and plagues; only those who step upon this path firmly and do not sway with the passing breezes have the potential to reach the end of this path. On the other hand, the soft impatient people, who carry a bit of provision for the road, take the first step, then stall and never reach their desired destination.

The states of the mature, the immature understands not
Thus let’s shorten this speech and wass-salaam (Godspeed)

در نیابد حال پخته هیچ خام
پس سخن کوتاه باید والسلام


This verse points to the fact that the prerequisite for accessing the Ma’refa (Divine Gnosis) is the appropriate Hala (Momentary state of the Heart). Since the true Ma’refa (Divine Gnosis) can only be observed (Shuhud) and has no prehensions (is out of the grasp of the mind).

We cannot reach the sun, nor can we touch it or bring it closer to us, but we can—from an astounding distance—observe  its rays and based upon its light we can understand some information/ gain some knowledge about it. We cannot understand Allah, nor can we control anything regarding Allah, but we can find states of the heart in which the heart can become a receptacle for the Nur (Divine Light). Only after absorbing a few such rays, do we know anything about Allah, and can we say a few things about Allah.

Tear up the chains, be free O boy!
For how long enslaved by silver and gold

بند بُگسلْ ,باشْ آزادْ ای پسر
چندْ باشی بندِ سیمُ و بندِ زر


Freedom is immensely cherished amongst the Sufis: The slave (of Allah), within his heart, can never be chained by anything in this world or in the Afterworld. Within his heart there is no desire, lust, want, need, or pleasure from anything of this world. (Risalat al-Qushairi)

As Ibn Arabi wrote in the Futuhat:

“Know—may Allah give you success—that indeed Hurriyat (Freedom) is a Maqam (Stationary state of the heart) of the Dhat (Divine Unreachable Essence) and not Ilahy (Divinity accessible for Servitude); it is never applicable to the slave in an absolute sense, for he remains (always) the slave of Allah .

الباب الأربعون ومائة
في معرفة مقام الحرية وأسراره
أعلم وفقك الله ان الحرية مقام ذاتي لا ألهي ولا يتخلص للعبد مطلقاً فانه عبد لله

There is no linkage between the creation and Allah and no Idhafa (Annexation) of Allah; indeed Allah is need-less of the multiverse. Since there is no essence in existence except for the Dhat (Divine Essence), no relationship exists between the Dhat and creation; the Dhat cannot be grasped by the eye; it is without boundaries, and no application of (human) logic, reasoning, or evidence leads to it.

لم يكن بين الحق والخلق مناسبة ولا أضافة بل هو الغني عن العالمين وذلك لا يكون لذات موجودة ألا لذات الحق فلا يربطها كون ولا تدركها عين ولا يحيط بها حد ولا يفيدها برهان

And when Allah wills a slave the latter Maqam (Stationary State of the heart), he causes him Fana’ (Evanescence) which is the steady-state of Tahaqquq (Absolute Realization)— and not a state of Takhalluq (state of continuous being and becoming). This cannot happen to the slave except by the cessation of Iftiqar (Needlessness)  which ceaselessly accompanies him due to the potentialities that constructed him (i.e. perfection of Ma’refa (Divine Gnosis)).

فإذا أراد العبد التحقق بهذا المقام فانه مقام تحقق لا مقام تخلق ونظر انه لا يصح له ذلك ألا بزوال الأفتقار الذي يصحبه لأمكانه

That is why, when the slave looks at his essence, he finds that he is Ma’dum (Never was) and without Wujud (Being)

من ذلك فنظر إلى عينه فإذا هو معدوم لا وجود له

Frouzanfar adds to Ibn Arabi:

Fana’ (Evanescence) and Hurriyat (Freedom from want) are not obtained through human deeds, they are obtained solely through the Kamal (Perfection) of Ma’ref (Divine Gnosis) in absence of any reliance on human actions. This is so, because for as long as the Salik (Traveler) is the doer, registering/proving his own existence, he sees his own Nafs (Self) partitioned from Allah, and consequently cannot be emancipated from genus of Takhalluq (state of continuous being and becoming).

Intimate entanglements with the pleasures causes lack of spiritual energy and dimming of perception that lead to a halt in the Suluk (Voyage), which Rumi considers a form of death! Rumi is calling us to eternal life; as long as all the chains of habits, superstitions, cultural ties are not completely severed, the human being will not reach the stage of Hurriyat (Freedom) and Kamal (Perfection) of human-ness and manifestation of spiritual individuality (Shakhsiyat).

If you pour the sea within a drinking container
Only fits the portion of water for one day

گر بریزی بحر را در کوزهئ
چند گنجد قسمتِ یک روزهئ


The drinking container of the eyes of the greedy fills not
For as long as the sea-shell is not satiate, with pearls it fills not

کوزۀ چشمِ حریصان پر نشد
تا صدف قانع نشد پر دُر نشد

When the sea-shell satiates, its mouth shuts tightly in order for the sprouting of the pearl to take place within it; if the mouth remains open to eat or grab external things of low value, the internal precious pearl will not form.

The verses point to the the fact that, there is no measure of gain that can satiate human greed! Greed is directly proportional to gain and monotonically increases without an end in sight. Rumi uses the metaphor of a drinking container which can contain only enough for one day of usage from the vast waters of the sea and leaves the rest of the sea unused, as opposed to the container of the human eye that cannot be filled except by the dust of the grave.

Whomever garment Ishq tore up
From greed and faults is thus cleaned up

هر که را جامه ز عشقی چاک شد
او ز حِرصُ و عیب کلّی پاک شد


Be happy O wonderful crazy Ishq of us
O healer of all ghastly ailments of us

شاد باش ای عشقِ خوشْ سودایِ ما
ای طبیبِ جمله علتهای ما

O healing from arrogance and hypocrisy of us
O you the Plato and the Galen of all of us

ای دوایِ نَخْوَتُ و ناموس ما
ای تو افلاطونُ و جالینوس ما


Sudā: According to ancient medicine, Suda is one of the four internal bodily humors which, if produced in excess may cause mental and nervous disorders.

Nāmūs: In this context, it means the love of status and fame, while pretending to be ascetic i.e. hypocrisy.

Ishq (Unrestrained Love), spiritual or worldly, is the cause of alteration of behavior! An individual who used to love to accumulate wealth or one who was a coward, as soon as he is overcome by Ishq (Unrestrained Love), he is able to reach the outer-limits of generosity or bravery, splurging, giving away his wealth or exposing himself to all types of danger and placing himself in harm’s way. Of course, in your own personal life, you have observed yourself sacrificing due to the excess of love (Ishq).

The above applied to worldly Ishq (Unrestrained Love)—Ishq Majazi—the same can be said of spiritual Ishq or Ishq Haqiqi. The power of faith (Iman) is a form of Ishq that cuts the strings between the lover and the rest of the universe until such time when the person sees nothing but the beloved. The believer sees nothing but That Divine Beloved, the object of every desire; he is willing to sacrifice himself, his mate and his children for the sake of that Divine Being e.g. the incredible tales of the early Christians and Muslims.

As an example, Imam Ali, the defender of the pious and the poor (Maula-yeh Muttaqian), sacrificed himself for the religion of Islam thus laying on the bed of the Prophet to fool the assassins, what else other than the Ishq-Muhammadi (Muhammdian Unrestrained Love) could have caused him to do so?

If the water and mud ‘Ishq, worldly love, can cause such change in behavior, what then of the spiritual Ishq (Unrestrained Love), the Ishq of unseen meanings ? And for that matter what would the Ishq of a Deity that Lam-Yazal-Wa-Lā-Yazāl (IT never ceased and shall never cease) do that has not been done to the pure hearts? Rumi believes that Ishq (Unrestrained Love), even when of worldly nature, is the healer of all ailments of the heart, and is the alchemy that makes the rusted copper of our behavior turn into the pure gold of Kamal (Perfection)!

We know that the path of Riyadhat (Taming of the Nafs (Self)) and the Suluk (Voyage) is a long meandering path; its travel feels like chiseling a mountain with a needle, a most perilous path. On the other hand, the way of Ishq (Unrestrained Love) is a short one, its hardship and harshness level the road so that it becomes smooth and wonderful to walk upon; that is why, the lovers, fueled by the energy of drunkenness and carried by the legs of Shauq (Yearning) prefer to traverse this path towards Kamal (Perfection) instead of that of asceticism and dry religious practices…

© 2007-2002,  Dara O. Shayda, Dr. Hind Rifai

Masnavi Daftar 1, Verse 7-14

Vol. 1, v. 7-14

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My secret and my moans are not that far apart
However the eye and ear have no such light
v. 7
سِرِّ من از نالۀ من دور نیست     لیکْ چشمُ وُ گوش را آنْ نورْ نیست

Every person can be cognized according to their speech since all the external deeds and motions of a person are the results of the varying internal states of Nafs (Self). Rumi believes that a person’s speech and deeds are indeed eyewitness to the nature of his soul and that we can uncover what is hidden within the speaker though listening to his speech. This is one of the key psychological aspects of  Rumi’s Masnavi which has been mentioned in more than one occasion.

There has to be a ‘relationship’ between a Mudrik (Understander) and what he understands.

The above statement in the language of Whitehead’s is phrased as follows: “There has to be a vectorial link between a subject prehending (Mudrik or Prehender) and an entity (data)”. This vectorial link is termed “Prehension“.

The five senses also do prehend e.g. teh ear prehends sound and the eye prehends shapes and colors and the tongue prehends tastes. Similarly the spiritual affairs are prehended by the spiritual Mudrik (Prehender, subject of a prehension) e.g. the mind’s prehension of imaginary immaterial entities.

That is how the inner secrets of a person can (indirectly) be prehended via his speech and actions, since the five senses have no prehension of what is within a person.

Body from the soul and soul from the body is not veiled
However no one has a vision to view the soul whatsoever
v. 8
تْن زِ جانُ وُ جانْ زِ تنْ مستور نیست     لیکْ کس را ديدِ جانْ دستورْ نيست

Soul here means the human soul which is a Jauhar (Intrinsic Essence) denudated from all else (specially the body), yet the body is under the Soul’s complete control wherein the soul is the Mudrik (Prehender) for all pleasures. The body is a machine whose operator/driver are the soul’s wishes; whatever is done by the body is in reality the effect of the soul upon it therefore we might say: The Soul prehends (Idrak) the body and the body has some understanding of the soul and neither is veiled from the other.

Returning to the first verse of this write-up which speaks of the moan of sorrowful songs, we see that Rumi is saying that on the surface of things these are moans but in reality these moans are sounded by the influence of no other than his soul. Therefore the ‘secret’ of the verse is his soul while the moans are his body. He observes that not every eye is capable of linking his moans to his soul i.e. the soul is the mover of the body and body is the Muzhir (Place for the manifestation of something) for his soul.

This tune of the Nay (Reed-flute) is by no wind, just by fire
And whoever has no such fire, then cease and be gone!
v. 9
آتش است این بانگِ نایُ وُ نیست باد      هر که این آتش ندارد نیست باد

Bād: The breath that is blown into the flute, the wind.
Nist: Negation in the first verse and non-being (ceasing) in the second wind.

The tune of the Nay (Reed-flute) is the fire for it flares off the ‘Ishq (Unrestrained Love) and sets the listener afire. This could also refer to the Sama’ (The Sufi Dance) which was used to cleanse the souls  from all pollutants and opacities. Just like the fire which burns and cleans what it comes close to, this Sufi fire burns the desires and whims within the Sufi dancer, a charring which prepares the heart for the reception of the unseen Warid (Divine inspiration entering the heart) and the rays of the Haqiqat (Absolute Truth and Reality). This is because from the point of view of the Sufi the heart without Ishq (Unrestrained Love) and the soul without Mahab-bat (Divine Love) is nothing but an inanimate object, and the person who has no Dhauq (Taste of spiritual experiences) is no different from the beasts and livestock. Such a person might as well be dead and gone, as was versed in the second verse .

Within the Nay (Reed-flute) it is the fire of  love that has fallen
Within the wine it is the hubble-bubble of love that has fallen
v. 10
آتشِ  عشقست کاندر نَی فُتاد   جوشِشِ عشقست کاندر مَی فُتاد

Some of the ancient sages, as well as some Sufis, believed that Ishq (Unrestrained Love) is what is running like a current within all creatures and that since there is no creature that does not seek its own perfection and completeness, the unary mover of all such motions towards Kamal (Perfection) is love or Ishq!

Ibn Sina has explicated this in great details as an answer to Abu Addullah Faqih Ma’soumi (Murdered by the command of Mahmoud Ghaznawi in the city of Ray (close the Tehran) at 420 HQ) in the treatise title Ishq (Risala Fi Al-Ishq). Sadred-Din Shirazi has also summarized Ibn Sina’s explanation in his book Al-Asfar Al-Arba’a under the title ‘Ishq-Hayula. (Dara: Hayula is the universal substance which all other entities are built from)

Wine in Sufi literature means Divine Knowledge (gnosis) or deep love of something absorbed within the heart. This code-word was not first coined by the Sufis, it is found in the verse of the Qur’an: “And their hearts drank the wine (of love) of the calf ” [Qur’an: 2:93], referring to the Hebrews worshipping the calf  in the absence of Moses. In the language of the Arabs, “wine” is used to refer to knowledge and understanding which deeply ooze into the human being like a cloth dipped into a dye, absorbing the colorants. In this case, it has nothing to do with alcoholic beverages and is not an invention of alcoholic sufi-likes. This Rahi (Author) suggests to the Western Murids (Seekers of the Divine) not to accept the substance abuse suggestion of the alcoholic few that roam around and claim to be Sufi Sheikhs.

The Nay (Reed-flute) is the companion of whomever suffered a loss,
Its melodic notes have our veils torn up
v. 11
نَی حریفِ هر که از یاری بُرید   پردها اَش پردهایِ ما درید

Harif: Coworker; metaphorically used for a companion or a friend.

Pardeh: Like the seven notes of Western music; however it also could mean a limited set of standard rhymes/notes.

Pardeh Daridan: To tear up the veils metaphorically means: the secrets of someone, hijab in Arabic.

A Nay (Reed-flute) that was chopped off the marsh-reed and carried far away from the other reeds is the metaphor for a lover that is without his beloved who is very far and out of reach; the tunes of this Nay (Reed-flute) soothe the heart of such a lover who is suffering from loss. When these tunes excite such an audience of lovers, a myriad of different states appear within the hearts of the lovers, plain and manifest, as though the veils were tore off their hearts which are thus exposed. The Nay (Reed-flute) exposes the private/concealed sorrows of those lovers.

Like unto this Nay’s venom and antidote, who has seen anything similar!
Like unto this Nay’s solace and yearning, who has seen anything similar!
v. 12
همچو نَی زهریُ وُ تِریاقی کِیْ دید   همچو نَی دمسازُ وُ مشتاقی کِیْ دید

Note: The Rahi (Author) read the Kay as Keh in order to fit the rhyme of the verses.

Teryāq: A composite antidote to treat venomous bites. From the original Greek,  it has entered Farsi as Tariāk referring to an organic extract or to a mineral.

Damsāz: The soulmate who offers companionship and solace to a friend.

Mushtāq: In Arabic it is an Ism-Fa’il (A doer-name) i.e. yearner in tumultuous excitement within yearning to see the lost beloved.

As was explained earlier, the tunes of the Nay (Reed-flute) either raise the flames of sorrow within the hearts of the lovers or offer soothing relief. Sufis believe that if Sama’ (The Sufi Dance) is performed as a part of desires and lusts ( like a regular dance in a night club), it causes much harm and is nothing but a poison. When properly performed, it is like an antidote for the ailing hearts suffering from the venomous bites of loss of a dear beloved.

The home of the Nay are the lips, where the moans are made…

The tales of the bloodied path, the Nay (Reed-flute) narrates
The tales of the crazy love of Majnun, the Nay (Reed-flute) narrates
v. 13
نَی حدیثِ راهِ پر خونْ می کند   قصهایِ عشقِ مجنونْ می کند

Rāh-eh Por Khoun: The bloodied path refers to the path of Ishq (Unrestrained Love) where unnumbered lovers are slaughtered and left to bleed:

Do not ask me about the secrets within that house;
Other than blood upon the door and doorway see and question not!
Sindbad Nameh, Istanbul p. 190

Mahram for this consciousness is unconsciousness and none else
The border guard has no customer other than the ear and none else
v. 14
مَحْرَمِ این هوشْ جز بیهوشْ نیست    مرزبانْ را مشتری جز گوشْ نیست

Mahram: The person allowed to see or accompany a family member according to Shar’ e.g. the father or brother of a Muslim woman, while all other men are forbidden from her direct visit..

Housh: Rapid Idrak (Prehension), the power that makes something Mudrik (Subject of a prehension). This Rahi (Author) translated this word into consciousness for now.

Bi-Housh: Someone whose consciousness is ailing or suffering from the drunkenness, unable to act consciously with intelligence and deliberation. This refers to someone who has given up the benefits of the life of this world and who is considered gullible or stupid by common people:

“The majority of the people of the Paradise are Al-Bulh” said the Prophet, peace be upon him. Al-Bulh is the plural of Ablah and this is the person who is completely neglectful of evil (i.e. does no evil) and his/her nature is inclined towards goodness. Or someone who is conquered by a salubrious bosom i.e. always suspects the good in people, totally neglecting this world.

الجامع الصغير. الإصدار 3,22 – لجلال الدين السيوطي
المجلد الثالث >> باب: حرف الدال
4187 – دخلت الجنة فإذا أكثر أهلها البله
[“البله”: جمع أبله، وهو الغافل عن الشر، المطبوع على الخير. أو من غلبت عليه سلامة الصدر، فحسن ظنه بالناس، فأغفل أمر دنياه، فجهل حذق التصرف فيها. فلذلك كانوا أكثر أهلها.
(وانظر شرح الحديث 1379)]ـ
التخريج (مفصلا): ابن شاهين في الأفراد، وابن عساكر عن جابر
تصحيح السيوطي: ضعيف

This word refers to the situation wherein unless a lover has given up his own Self and its interests, in no way can he comprehend the moans of the Nay (Reed-flute).

In the second verse the border-guard is of the Pir (Wise Sage) of the Persian Sufis or the Sufi Sheikh, to whom the people go to listen to wise advice and admonishment.

© 2007-2002,  Dara O. Shayda, Dr. Hind Rifai

Masnavi, Daftar 1, Verse 2-6

Vol. 1, v. 2-6

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Since I have been chopped off the marsh-reed
Men and women moan listening to my screams (for justice and sympathy) [nafir]
v. 2
کز نَیِسْتان تا مرا بُبْریده اند   در نفیرم مرد  و زن نالیده اند


Nafir: A loud complaining call to ask for justice, opposing someone or something, seeking sympathy. Nafir, amongst the contemporary Nay (Reed Flute) players is a special tune that sounds like poff-poff – puffs of air blowing out of the perforations on the flute.
‘Men and women’: In singular in the text  i.e.‘man and woman’ they refer to the genus or gender classes.
Kaz: Is the result of the merging of two words Keh (Since, That) and Az (From).

The meaning of the verse is quite clear: the complaint of the Nay (Reed Flute)( i.e. Rumi himself) about the distance, about being away from the place where he was close to the Divine Beloved and was amongst others of his kind who were the lovers of The Beloved.

Abdul-Rahman Jami and many who followed him interpret the Nayistan (Marsh-reed) either:

1.  As Ghayb-Awwal (Primordial Unseen) and Ta’ayyun-Awwal (Primordial Ocular Contrast): State wherein one ‘sees’ the realities of the Wujud (Being) without the benefit of contrast i.e. contrast between the Divine Presence and other creatures- no matter how the contrast might be obtained e.g. knowledge-
2. Or as Ghayb-Thani (Secondary Unseen) and Ta’ayyun-Thani (Secondary Ocular Contrast): State wherein one ‘sees’ the realities of the Wujud (Being) with the benefit of the contrast i.e. the Divine Presence is discerned from all else.

Furthermore the men and women are understood as:
1.  Men the Divine Names and women the essence of potentialities
2.  Men the ‘Uqul (Pl. Aql or intellects) and women the Nufus (Pl. Nafs or selves)

The above interpretations of Jami are tasteless and away from the style of Rumi altogether.

Note: The above Jami quotes are from Sharh Wali Muhammad Akbar Abadi.

‘Since I have been chopped off the marsh-reed’ is a passive sentence in Farsi with the doer omitted but understood to be in plural, so that the verse actually would read: ‘Since I have been chopped of the marsh-reed BY THEM’. In other words, we did not leave the other universe on our accord and volition, many hands were in this plot to chop us off from there and throw us on this earth.

Also the verb Bubridan (Cutting or chopping with the aid of a sharp object) deals with several concepts:

1.    Suddenness of the cutting, it was a hurried affair without warning
2.    A special sharp blade was used to cut us off, this was no ordinary instrumentation or process
3.    Rumi did not use the word Kandan (Uprooting) which implies that a part of us, the very root of our existence is still in the sempiternal marsh-reed!

I agree with Dr. Frouzanfar, that ‘men and women’ are the ordinary men and women here in this world. Rumi sang his tunes whether there was a man or a woman close by. There was no sense of discrimination and both genders responded to him equally.

When you are in a real life circumstance where there is sorrow and depression, you-along with others-are moaning to the songs of the Nayi (Nay player) i.e. the melancholy felt by all around you is not due to anything here in this world, it is because of being cut off from the other world where we all were very close to Allah and yet our Nafs (Self) ceaselessly introduces ambiguities that confuse us and make us believe that the very source of our sorrows and depressions is in the deed of the people around us. No! Our perpetual proclivity towards sorrow and depression is our innate moaning while listening to the Nayi (Nay player) playing songs that remind us of the other world.

I seek a bosom, mutilated piece by piece by the Firaq (Separation)
So that I can tell it about the tale of the pain of Ishtiaq (Yearning)
v. 3
سینه خواهم شَرْحِهْ شَرْحِهْ از فراق   تا بگویم شرحِ دردِ  اشتیاق

Shar-heh: Strips of filleted meat.

Firaq: Separation from one’s beloved.

Ishtiaq: Yearning and desire to see a highly desired lost beloved that is no longer available for personal visiting and seeing. There is no such Ishtiaq (Yearning) unless there is Firaq (Separation) first, and it does not apply to a beloved that is readily present.

Ishtiaq (Yearning) is not something that can be explicated like some teach-able knowledge, it is indeed a deeply seated affair in the dealings between the lover and a lost beloved; there are no means for its analysis by means of application of thoughts and cognition.

No matter what a lover with Ishtiaq (Yearning) might express, it is nothing but a drop in the sea, beyond any grasp of other minds, as opposed to a learnt knowledge that can be conveyed to others by means of speech and analysis.

Therefore unless someone is really suffering from a Firaq (Separation) and suffers from intense burning Ishtiaq (Yearning) to see his/her lost beloved, s/he cannot understand what Rumi is talking about. And  knowing this, Rumi only seeks those hearts suffering with Ishtiaq (Yearning).

As the Arabic saying goes: “The one who did not ‘taste’ does not understand”. (Dara: Meaning the person who has never tasted honey can never understand any description or analysis of the taste of honey: tasting/having tasted the honey is the absolute prerequisite for any two people talking about the taste of honey.)

Apparently this is dealing with the story of Yussef Bin Hussein who had neglected Khawwas; when he came finally to see him and asked him if he needed anything… Khawwas answered: “A strip of grilled liver is my wish!” (Source: Risala Qushairi) (Dara: By seeing and smelling the grilled liver Yussef could become cognizant of how Khawwas was feeling about being without him)

Khajih Ayyub in Bahrul Ulum explains that Rumi wants for himself the mutilated bosom as the Qur’anic terminology of ‘Sharh Al-Sadr’ or “enlightenment of the bosom” so that he is enlightened with the ability to narrate the deep pain of  the concealed loss of being away from That Divine Beloved. Although this is not an incorrect interpretation, the verses that follow make it clear that in reality Rumi is seeking for other people’s bosoms.

The parents who just lost a child are the candidates that Rumi seeks in order to narrate to them the pain within. Rumi has nothing to do with the fortunate folk who buy and sell, sleep and eat well, they are free from the pain of Ishtiaq (Yearning) and thus like a person who has never tasted honey no description of the taste of honey would suffice to transmit to them the reality of the experience.

Since Rumi has tasted what those parents with loss have felt, he can walk the streets and see what is within the bosoms of such people of immense loss and can communicate with them on the same level. Since Rumi knows that the loss of a child, is indeed a signature reminding of the loss of That Divine Beloved, our Nafs (Self) generates ambiguities within us that confuse the painful loss of the Divine Beloved with that of the lost child.

Anyone who is distanced afar from his origins
Shall again seek the day of his arrival at it
v. 4
هر کسی  کو دور مانَد از اصلِ خویش   باز جوید روزگارِ وصلِ خویش

This verse deals with the metaphysical saying of the Muslim Philosophers and Sufis: Every object shall return to the place of its origination. For example, a thrown rock must return to the surface of the earth where it belonged and originated from. This very simple observation applies to our souls: Souls yearn to return to their place of primal origin, close to Allah, and will drag all our bodies, minds, desires, deeds and words towards that end.

However a part of our Nafs (Self) weighs down upon staying here, confusing us by telling us that this is the place of origin and that there is no other destiny to return to and no hope for arrival.

But at the end, whether the Nafs (Self) or the Soul get their way, we shall return to our origin: 54:55 “In an Assembly of Truth, in the Presence of a Sovereign Omnipotent.”

فِي مَقْعَدِ صِدْقٍ عِنْدَ مَلِيكٍ مُقْتَدِرٍ

I moaned in front of very many audiences
Those in a good state and those in a foul state
v. 5
من بهر جمعيتي نالان شدم   جفتِ بدْ حالانُ وُ خوشْ حالان شدم

Hāl: State of the heart.

Bad Hal: Normally it means a sick and ailing person; here it means those with the turbulent and disturbed states of the heart.

Khosh Hal: Normally it means an fortunate person; here it means the hearts with beatitude due to yearning for the Divine Presence or  being busied with internal thoughts and acquisitions of Ma’refa (Gnosis).

On the surface, Rumi could be understood to say that he sang his songs for those who were happy and those who were not; those who were happy were made happier and the unfortunate either found solace with his tunes or plunged deeper into their sorrows.

Perhaps Rumi meant that he had no prejudice against any folks, and that he sought That Divine Beloved amongst many communities and individuals regardless of the makeup of their spirituality. For indeed each and every heart without exception has a passage towards the Divine Truth..

Or perhaps Rumi meant that the Sufis should be the solace to any aching heart regardless of causes and appearances. They must do this with good behavior, kind words and a generous attitude, not with anger, impatience and arrogance (holier than thou attitude).

Everyone accompanied me with his own understanding
Tried not to seek my secrets from the depth of my within
v. 6
هر كسي از ظنِّ خود شد يارِ من   از درونِ من نجُست اسرارِ من

Perhaps the complaining of the Nay (Reed Flute) can be thought of as the way each listener feels the tunes and rhytmes, each in his own way. If  there is no match between the music and the listener then there is no pleasure for listening to this music.

We might assume that Rumi was complaining about his contemporaries. Since he was unknown and unappreciated during his lifetime, there were many intellectually blind  people who criticized him and considered his music and his dance a Bida’ (Religious Invention). Even his supporters were not equal in understanding and appreciating his work with the exception of Shams Tabrizi, Salahed-Din and Husamed-Din who were his chosen few companions. As was mentioned by Aflaqki quoting Fakhred-Din Araqi, one of the contemporaries of Rumi: ‘Constantly Sheikh Fakhred-Din attended the Sama’ (Sufi Dance) and always talked about the greatness of Rumi while fetching sigh and acknowledging the lack of appreciation and understanding of Rumi as he had deserved: “He came a stranger to this world and departed as a stranger” .’ (Manaqib Aflaki, Ankara Print, P. 400)

Within this verse there are hints about being sincere with clear intentions in order to acquire knowledge and Ma’refa (Divine Gnosis).

© 2007-2002,  Dara O. Shayda, Dr. Hind Rifai

Masnavi, Daftar 1, Verse 1

By Rumi
Book 1, verse 1

Discussion    Join

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Listen to this Nay (Reed-flute) how it complains
How it tells the tales of (long lasting) separations

بِشْنَوْ اينْ نَىْ  چُونْ شِكايَتْ مى كُنَدْ   
       اَزْ جُداييها حِكايَتْ مى كُنَدْ


The researchers of Masnavi have explained this verse in many different ways. In the following we will review issues related to those interpretations.

The is no doubt that the word Nay refers to the reed-flute which is played by being blown into, since Rumi was a musician himself and had an intimate relationship with this instrument and has indeed mentioned the Nay in his other poems:

Come off my heart moans of the Nay
Scent of my beloved comes off the Nay
Divan Kabir v.699

O you the one who has conquered a universe
The sounds of the Nay, the sounds of the Nay and the sounds of the Nay
Divan Kabir v. 30836

O you wonderful sounding Nay, solace, happiness for the heart
Sometimes sounding with warmth and at other times sounding with chill (melancholy)
Divan Kabir 31825

O you Nay how wonderful it is to know of the secrets
The work is done by he who knows how to work
Divan Kabir 31897

This Nay (Reed Flute) is indeed a similitude or a metaphor for in reality the Nay is Rumi himself! It has gutted himself out with a cavity to blow in both the love and the beloved, be it Shams Tabrizi or Husamud-Din Chalabi or God, when the love of God conquers Rumi’s heart, for Rumi believes that God is inseparable from the loves and beloved(s) of his heart. This is evident since prior to his overflowing love for Shams Tabrizi, Rumi did not verse any poems! It is the love of others which made Rumi verse and dance to express the meanings of the unveiled secrets, so are love and the beloved the motivating forces behind his poetry, as they are in synchronicity with the Al-Haqq (The Absolute Reality and Truth, Allah).

It is not Rumi who is chanting the beautiful poems! Love and the beloved have taken over his throat and are vicariously rolling these caressing poems off Rumi’s tongue like the flying ambers of a passionate music played by the membranes of his larynx.

Whether these musical poems are about stories of love and loss, or about admonishments, whether they are harshly stated or softly spoken, they are nothing but the spoken words of love and the teachings of the beloved. This rope (of the poems) is lassoed around Rumi’s neck and he is pulled in different directions helplessly moving this way or that way, for this Masnavi was versed by him without any premeditation and thought involuntarily uttered and then scribed by Chalabi; it was caused exclusively through the uproars of what was boiling and burning within Rumi, without any volition of his own self. That is why the word Nay (Reed Flute) is used to describe the process of this poetry as though a flute was hollowed, as in the  removal of Rumi’s Self while the musician now takes over the blowing of the aerial music within the cavity that was once Rumi’s Nafs (Self). Indeed we can conclude that this Nay (Reed Flute) is Rumi himself and the word is not a similitude or metaphor of something else:

We are like unto a Nay (Reed Flute) and the music from You
Or we are like a mountain and the echoes within from You
Masnavi Vol. 1, v. 599

The universe is like a Nay and He blows into every opening
Every moan of the music (comes) from those two sugary lips
Divan Kabir 5664

Within the heart such exciting tumultuous music
And I know for sure that is the song of your Nay
Divan Kabir 6486

The truth is: Those sweet lips that blow into me
The cause for the music of this Nay beyond my control
Divan Kabir 2569

Who is more desired and more pious than the Nay ?
For it puts its lips upon yours to teach you the rhythms

Much sought after with greed are these Nays and specially the sugar-Nay
Dancing within the reed-marshes or: You endow with honor whom You will [3:26]
Divan Kabir 93, 94

I know O my father that I talked much about what you already know
That I am like unto a Nay, head-less and feet-less, clutched by the hands of the Nay player
Divan Kabir 14685

I am so filled with air that certainly I am the Nay and You are the Nay player
That within my Self, o my love, I am hunting after that Self-worshiper
Divan Kabir 16830

I am like unto an inanimate Nay, silent without your lips
But O what rhythms I can sound, the moment when a breath is blown into me
Divan Kabir 17184

I wish not to speak except through the cupbearer (that plays my Nay)
Who blows into us as though we are the Nay
Divan Kabir 17234

The lovers bemoaning like the Nays and love like the Nay player
What does it blow into me, this love into my Nay
Divan Kabir 20374

You are my tambourine and don’t let just anyone slap you
You are my Nay and bemoan not the lamentations of just anybody
Divan Kabir 21750

You are like my Nay and thus bemoan not except upon my lips
And play no tunes unless clutched by my hand otherwise stay silent
Divan Kabir 23512

Shams Tabrizi plays me like a Nay
With the excuse of  a Nay, the musician feverishly performing
Divan Kabir 25491

The mouth of love laughs aloud that I called its name
That indeed love is blowing into us, that we are the Nay and that it is the Nay player
Divan Kabir 26446

I am that Nay that is to be excused (for this music is not really from me)
That any moment you wish you blow into me

And though all the puffs of air in this world are accounted for
Yet O you the puff that blows into me, how is it that you are not accounted for?
Divan Kabir 28562, 28563

I am like unto a Nay tasting your lips while bemoaning
That I play such little tunes that are not attracting any new beloveds!
Divan Kabir 30374

The musician is within you so why give in to another musician (from outside you)
Your body is no less of a Nay, your soul is no less of a Nay
Divan Kabir 30161

How could I not bemoan the person that clutched at me so hard
By both hands and by his lips and played me like a Nay
Divan Kabir 32637

Upon the memories of the beloved parched are the lips
Happily, with an empty belly,  I bemoan like unto a Nay

Empty your Self, and be hollow upon the lips of the Nay player
Be not filled once I play the Nay (translation ?)
Divan Kabir 34707, 34708

Another point of view is adapted from the Sufis i.e. Fana-Fa’l (The Evanescence through deeds) which is coined as Chang (‘harp’, Farsi) or Rabāb (Bedouin string instrument, Arabic) or Tabla (Tambourine, drum) i.e. without the strike force and an inflicted wound no sounds can be generated! As Rumi has versed:

We are like a harp and you are striking us with wounds
The moaning is from us and not from you
Masnavi Vol. 1, v. 598

Beatitude upon the one that is stroked by the hand of the Haqq
Placed close to Him and performed as his instrumental music
Divan Kabir 7775

Whether we are good or evil please deny us not
That we are harps and our hearts like unto the strings

Sometimes play us like a wet tune
Sometimes play us like a dry tune

That if You do not play the heart of this harp
It would be best to leave it alone at some corner
Divan Kabir 12371-73

I am silent but you did not leave me as such
Like I am unto a harp subjugated to your lamenting songs
Divan Kabir 23591

The questions and the answers are all from Him and I am like unto a string instrument
Hurriedly he strikes at me with wounds, in other words: do bemoan!

One moment a song of help and one moment a song of death
With such goodness, (he) strikes at me thus elucidating my affairs
Divan Kabir 14295-6

We are all hollow like a tambourine in Your Presence
Screaming with moans once you strike us with wounds
Divan Kabir 14325

The heart said: How can I be torn away from You?
How can a drum make a sound without a drummer banging

The entire universe is a drum and You are the drummer
How can anyone go away from You, while all the passages are blocked

Answered: Be cognizant of your Self as a drum
Be sometimes a drum and sometimes a drummer and that shall bring your humility
Divan Kabir 14352-4

It has been speculated that the origins of these concepts is the Arabic phrases:

The likeness of a believer is that of a reed-flute, his voice will not reach perfection and beauty unless his belly is empty!

Rumi has considered this Arabic phrase as a Prophetic Narration (Hadith) and again has mentioned it in Masnavi (Vol. 4, v. 4213) and within the Divan Kabir (v. 6472, 18235). However the same phrase slightly reworded is attributed to Abu Talib Muhammad Ibn Ali Ibn Atiyah Makki one of the grand sheikhs of Sufism (386 HQ); it has also been considered to one of the anecdotes of the Bedouins  (‘Uyun Al-Akhbar, Egypt, Vol.3, P. 222). Nevertheless, it is the habit of Rumi to make a mountain out of a strand of a hay, thus to transform small and uninteresting dry concepts into grandiose works of imagination.

مثلُ المؤمِنِ كمثلِ المزمارِ لا يَحسُنُ صَوْتُهُ الّا بخلاءِ بطنِهِ

Therefore there is no doubt that the Nay (Reed Flute) is Rumi himself.

Rumi is the reed and love or the beloved blows into him and thus he sounds moaning sounds of music: Rumi is nothing but a heavenly musical instrument, like unto a moth flying around the flame of the candle, burning silently: That this song is not from me, He is playing the music through me, striking hard at the strings of my thoughts, wounding me with fiery lesions.

The above was narrated from Kamalul’-Din Hussein Kharazmi and Jami elucidating the first verse of the Masnavi.

The Nay (Reed Flute) has many other interpretations as well:

1.    Nay also means ‘negation’ in Farsi, thus referring to the state of Insan Kamil who is emptied or evanesced from his own Nafs (Self). Some have objected to this use since the negation in Farsi is Ney (‘e’ sounding as in nerd) and not Nay (‘a’ sounding as in cat). It should be noted that around the cities of Tabas and Bashruyeh Nay (‘a’ sounding as in cat) is used in the Farsi dialect as negation. Therefore the Nay can also be considered as a negation in Farsi, as well as a Ney (Reed Flute); both usages are supported.
2.    The Sanctified Ruh (Soul) that is separated from the sempiternal universe it belonged to, bemoaning its imprisonment within the dungeons of the bodily cage.
3.    It can also be interpreted as a reed that is cut to write with i.e. in calligraphy style or here the Nay is Qalam (Pen) facing the Lauh (The Divine Tablet).
4.   Or the Haqiqat-Muhammadia (Muhammadan Reality) that is in synchronicity with Qalam (The Divine Pen) and Lauh (The Divine Tablet), related to the ‘Iqra’ (Read! The first word of Qur’an), as Rumi started the first verse similarly Bish-naw (Do listen!) which is in harmony in relation to: “And when the Qur’an is read do listen and be silent” [7:204]

These last interpretations seem far from the spirit of Rumi, for in the Qunieh manuscript of the Masnavi, the verse reads: In-Nay (This Reed) i.e. Rumi pointing to his own person.

15:29 “When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit”, is another explanation for Rumi’s Nay (Reed Flute). We are made from clay which is molded like a wind instrument and we have no sound whatsoever except when Allah blows from Hu’s (ITs, His) spirit into our corporeal mold which is hollowed from all else! Our intention is to keep our insides clean and free from all else, so that the sound of this Divine Spirit can be heard like unto a beautiful music.

فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِنْ رُوحِي

© 2007-2002,  Dara O. Shayda, Dr. Hind Rifai

Being in the company of Allah


Dara once wrote to me:

” We think being with Allah is night-long prayer we do.
Sometimes to be in the company of Allah means to be lonely for 20 years or 15 years, just experience that duration, for Allah’s company that is mere blink of an eye. ”

I wrote it here in hope that someday some lonely and confused minds might find a great solace from these words.