Ali (a) and his assassin
Professor Nicholson's English translation of Jalaluddin Rumi's legendary poem
in Farsi: "Ali and His Murderer" book I lines
3844-3892, and 3924-3947 Begins page 208
( How the Prophet, on whom be peace, said in the ear of the stirrup holder of
the Prince of the Faithful ‘Ali, may God honor his person, "I tell thee, Ali
will be slain by thy hand." )
I am such a man that the honey of my kindness did not become poison in wrath (even) against my murderer.
3845 The Prophet said in the ear of my servant that one day he would sever this head of mine from my neck.
The Prophet by (Divine) inspiration informed my friend that in the end my destruction would be (wrought) by his hand.
He (my friend) says, "Kill me first, in order that this hateful crime may not proceed from me.'
I say, "Since my death is (to come) from thee, how can I seek to evade the destiny (of God)?'
He falls before me, saying, "O generous man, for God's sake cleave me in twain,
3850 That this evil end may not come upon me, and that my soul may not burn (with grief) for (thee who art) its (very)
I say, "Go: the Pen (of Divine ordainment) is dry 2*; by that Pen many a (lofty) landmark 3* is overthrown.
There is no hatred of thee in my soul, because I do not regard this (act) as (proceeding) from thee.
Thou art God's instrument, God's hand is the (real) agent: how should I assail and oppose God's instrument?"'
He (the knight) said, "For what reason, then, is retaliation (sanctioned)?" "'Tis from God, too,"said ‘Ali,
"and that is a hidden mystery.
3855 If He takes offence at His own act, (yet) He causes gardens (of good) to grow from that taking offence.
It beseems Him to take offence at His own act, inasmuch as in vengeance and mercy He is One.
In this city of phenomena He is the Prince; in (all) the realms (of the world) He is the Ruler.
If He breaks His own instrument, He mends that which has become broken."
Recognize, O noble sir, the indication of (the text), (Whatever) verse We shall cancel or cause to be forgotten,
followed by We shall bring a better.
3860 Every (religious) law that God has cancelled-He has taken away grass and brought roses in exchange.
Night cancels the business of day: behold an inanimateness (inertia) that enlightens the intellect!
Again, night is cancelled by the light of day, so that the inanimateness is consumed by that fire-kindling one.
Although that sleep and rest are darkness, is not the Water of Life within the darkness?
Did not minds become refreshed in that darkness? Did not a pause (in recitation) become the source of (increased beauty
in) the voice?
3865 For contraries are manifested by means of contraries:
in the black core (of the heart) He (God) created the light (of love).
The wars of the Prophet became the pivot (determining cause) of peace: the peace of this latter age was (produced)
from those wars.
That heart-ravisher cut off hundreds of thousands of heads, in order that the heads of the (whole) world's people might
The gardener lops the harmful bough, in order that the date palm may gain (tallness of) stature and goodness.
The expert (gardener) digs up the weeds from the garden, in order that his garden and fruit may look flourishing.
3870 The physician extracts bad teeth, in order that the beloved (patient) may be saved from pain and sickness.
Advantages then are (concealed) within defects: for martyrs there is life in death.
When the (martyr's) throat has been cut that swallowed the daily bread, (the spiritual blessings implied in the text)
receiving the (Divine) bounty, rejoicing, shall be delicious (to him).
When the throat of an animal is cut duly (in the manner prescribed by law), there grows (from it) the throat of man
1**, and its excellence is increased (thereby).
When a (martyred) man's throat is cut, come, consider what the result will be! Judge of this (case) by the analogy of
3875 A third throat will be born, and care of it will be (taken by) the sherbet of God and His lights.
The throat that has been cut drinks (the Divine) sherbet, but (only) the throat that has been delivered from Nay and
has died in Yea.
Make an end, O pusillanimous short-fingered (infirm) one!
How long will the life of thy spirit be (sustained) by bread?
Like the willow, thou hast no fruit, because thou hast lost thine honour for the sake of white bread.
If the sensual soul cannot refrain from this bread, take the elixir and turn thy copper into gold.
3880 Wouldst thou wash thy garment (clean), O so-and-so, do not avert thy face from the bleachers' quarter.
Although the bread has broken thy fast, cling to Him that binds what is broken, and ascend!
Inasmuch as His hand binds what is broken, it follows that His breaking is assuredly mending.
If thou break it, He will say to thee, "Come, make it whole (again)"; and thou hast neither hand nor foot (thou art
Therefore He (alone) has the right to break, for He (alone) can mend what has been broken.
3885 He that knows how to sew (together) knows how to tear (asunder); whatsoever He sells, He buys (something) better
He lays the house in ruins, upside down; then in one moment He makes it more habitable (than it was before).
If He sever one head from the body, He at once raises up hundreds of thousands of heads (for the beheaded person).
If He had not ordained a retaliation upon the guilty, or if He had not said, "In retaliation there is (for you) a life,"
Who indeed would have the stomach (would dare) of himself (on his own responsibility) to wield (draw) a sword against
him that is a thrall to the decree of God?--
3890 Because every one whose eyes He (God) hath opened would know that the slayer was constrained (to slay) by
Any one on whom that decree might (fall) would strike a sword-blow even at the head of his (own) child.
Go, fear (God) and do not rail at the wicked: know thine own impotence before the snare of the (Divine) decree.
[intervening story deleted]
Returning to the story of ‘Ali-may God honour his person!-and how
generously he behaved to his murderer.
Go back to ‘Ali and his murderer, and the kindness he showed to the murderer, and his superiority (moral and
3925 He said, "Day and night I see the enemy with my eyes, (but) I have no anger against him,
Because death has become sweet as manna to me: my death has laid fast hold of resurrection 4***
The death of deathlessness is lawful to us, the provision of un provided ness
is a bounty to us.
‘Tis death outwardly but life inwardly: apparently ‘tis a cutting-off (decease) 1****, in secret (in reality) ‘tis
permanence (life without end).
To the embryo in the womb birth is a going (to another state of existence): In the world it (the embryo) blossoms
3930 "Since I have intense love and longing for death, the prohibition do not cast yourselves (into destruction) is
(meant) for me,
Because (only) the sweet berry is prohibited; (for) how should it become necessary to prohibit the sour one?
The berry that has a sour kernel and rind-its very sourness and disagreeableness are (serve as) a prohibition of it.
To me the berry of dying has become sweet: (the text) nay, they are living has come (from God) on my account.
Slay me, my trusty friends, slay me, vile as I am: verily, in my being slain is my life for evermore.
3935 Verily, in my death is my life, O youth-how long shall I be parted from my home? Until when?
If there were not in my staying (in this world) my separation (from God), He would not have said, "Verily, we
are returning to Him."'
The returning one is he that comes back to his (native) city, and (fleeing) from the separation (plurality) of Time
approaches the Unity.
How the stirrup-holder of ‘Ali, may God honor his person, came (to him), saying, "For God's sake, kill me and deliver
me from this doom."
"He came back, saying, "O Ali, kill me quickly, that I may not see that bitter moment and hour.
Shed my blood, I make it lawful to thee, so that my eye may not behold that resurrection 3****.
3935 I said, "If every atom should become a murderer and, dagger in hand, go to attack thee,
None (of them) could cut from thee the tip of a single hair, since the Pen has written against thee such a line (of
But do not grieve: I am intercessor for thee: I am the spirit's master, I am not the body's slave.
This body hath no value in my sight: without my body I am the noble (in spirit), the son of the noble.
Dagger and sword have become my sweet basil: my death has become my banquet and narcissus-pot
3945 He that hamstrings (mortifies) his body in this fashion, how should he covet the Princedom and the
Outwardly he strives after power and authority, (but only) that he may show to princes the (right) way and
judgment; that he may give another spirit to the Princedom; that he
may give fruit to the palm-tree of the Caliphate.
END OF STORY
translation by R.A. Nicholson
indicates the line is corrected from that published as specified by Prof
2* I.e. the Divine decree is written and unalterably fixed.
3* Or, "many a man of mark."
1** Because the slaughtered animal is eaten and assimilated by man.
4*** I.e. "my death holds and possesses (as its real nature) resurrection."
1**** Literally, "its outward (aspect) is cut short."
2**** And, by the same analogy, death opens a new world to the spirit.
3**** I.e. "do not let me be raised from the dead with this crime to answer for."