the Message Continues ... 7/14


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Ali and the Enemy
by Rumi


3721 Learn sincerity of action from Ali1: know that (that) Lion of God2 was (completely) purified from deceit.

In a battle (against the unbelievers)3 he got the (upper) hand against a certain champion. He quickly raised his sword and was hurrying (to kill him).

(But the man) spat in Ali's face, (who was) the pride of every prophet and every saint;

He spat upon a face before which the (beautiful) face of the (full) moon bows low at the place of prostration.

3725 At (that) moment, Ali threw (aside his) sword (and) slowed (down) in (his) fight against him.

That brave warrior became amazed by this action and by (his) showing (such) forgiveness and mercy without (it being the) place (for it).

He said, "You raised (your) sharp sword against me: for what (reason) did you throw (it aside and) quit (fighting) me?

"What did you see (that was) better than fighting me, so that you became unenthusiastic in hunting me?

"What did you see so that (a) rage of yours like this settled down, (and) so that a lightning like that appeared and (then) jumped back?

3730 "What did you see so that a splendor appeared in my heart and soul from the reflection of that sight?4

"What did you see which was higher than the universe (and was) better than life, so that you gave me life?

"In being brave, you are the Lion of the Lord. (And) in manly generosity, who knows who you are?

3733 "In generosity you are (like) the cloud of Moses in the desert, out of which came incomparable trays (full of food) and bread."5

3745 "O Ali, (O) you who are entirely intelligence and vision! Tell (me) a little bit about what you have seen!

"The sword of your mildness has ripped (through) my soul, (and) the water of your knowledge has purified my earth.

"Speak openly.6 I know that these are His secrets, because killing without (need of) a sword is His (way of) action.

"The Creator (who is) without (need of) tools or limbs, (and) the Generous Giver of [all] these excellent gifts,

"Causes the understanding to taste a hundred thousand 'wines' (of) which the two eyes and ears are unaware.

3750 "Speak openly, O Falcon of the (Divine) Throne (and capturer of) good prey! What did you see this moment from the Maker?

3751 "(Since) your eyes have been taught understanding of the invisible (realms), (while) the eyes of those who are present [here]7 have been sewn up."

3787 (Ali) said, "I strike (with) the sword for the sake of God (only). I am the servant of God; I am not commanded by the body.

"I am the Lion of God, not the lion of craving, (and) my actions are evidence of my religion.

"In battle, (the verse) 'You did not throw when you threw'8 (is the attitude) for me. I am like the sword, but the one who strikes is (like) the Sun.9

3790 "I have removed the baggage of self from [blocking] the way, (and) I have considered (anything) other than God (to be) nothing.

"I am a shadow (and) the Sun is my lord; I am the doorkeeper, not a curtain (barring the way) to Him.

"I am like a sword, covered with jewels of Union; in battle, I make (men) living10 not killed.

"Blood does not cover the lustre of my sword, (and) the wind never takes (away) my clouds.

"I'm not straw. I am a mountain11 of restraint and patience and justice. The strong wind never steals (away) the mountain!

3795 "Whatever leaves (its) place because of some wind is (nothing but) twigs. Because there are many unfavorable winds.

"The winds of anger, lust, and greed carry (off) the one who isn't among those devoted to the (daily ritual) prayers.

"I am a mountain and my existence is His foundation. And if I become like straw, the wind (moving) me is remembrance of Him.12

"My affection doesn't move (toward anything) except by His wind, (and) the captain of my cavalry is nothing except love for the One.

"Anger (is a) king over kings, but (it is) my slave; I have also tied anger underneath the bridle.

3800 "The sword of my restraint has struck the neck of my anger, (and) God's anger has come upon me like mercy.13

"I am drowned in light, even though my roof is destroyed.14 I became a garden, even though I am (called) the Father of Dust.15

"Since a cause (other than God's cause) came [into my mind] during the battle, I found (it) suitable to hide (my) sword,16

"So that 'he loves for (the sake of) God'17 may become my name, (and) so that 'he hates for (the sake of) God' may become my desire.

"So that 'he gives for (the sake of) God' may become my generosity, (and) so that 'he withholds for (the sake of) God' may become my existence.

3805 "My avarice (is) for (the sake of) God, (my) generosity (is) for (the sake of) God and (for) none else. I belong completely to God, (and) I don't belong to anyone (else).

"And that which I do for (the sake of) God is not imitation or show (of piety), nor is it (done from) imagination or opinion; it is nothing other than (direct) vision.18

"I am liberated from striving and careful choosing, (for) I have attached my sleeve to the (hem of) the robe19 of God.

"If I keep flying, (it is because) I keep seeing the place (worthy) to fly to, and if I keep circling (it is because) I keep seeing the object (worthy) of revolving around.

3809 "And if I am carrying a burden, I know where (to take it) to: I am the moon and the Sun is the guide in front of me!"

--From "The Mathnaw-y Ma`naw" [Rhymed Couplets of Deep Spiritual Meaning] of Jalaluddin Rumi. (Mathnawi I: 3721-3733, 3745-3751, 3787-3809)
Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard (with gratitude for R. A. Nicholson's 1926 British translation) Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (, 9/9/99

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (3721) Ali: the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, the fourth successor (khaleefa) and the First Imam of the Shias. "This well-known anecdote of `Al, which illustrates the meaning of ikhls [= sincerity], i.e. pure disinterestedness and entire devotion to God..." (Nicholson, Commentary)

2. (3721) the Lion of God: a title of Ali, who was famous for his courage in battle.

3. (3722) battle (against the unbelievers): refers here to the battles which the earliest Muslims fought to defend themselves against the attacking armies of the Arab polytheists, who vastly outnumbered them and were determined to destroy the new monotheistic faith.
Ali was one of the greatest champions among the Muslims, and was famous for challenging the best fighter among the enemy and defeating him in one-to-one combat.

4. (3730) the reflection of that sight: Nicholson later changed his translation, on the basis of the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawi to: "What did you see, that from the reflex ion of the vision seen (by thee) thereof a flame appeared in my heart and soul?" (from: "that from seeing (only) the reflexion thereof a flame...").

5. (3733) bread: a reference to the Qur'anic story of the Prophet Moses and his people in the desert: "And We shaded you with clouds and sent down manna and quails for you, saying, 'Eat of the good things We have provided for you'" (Qur'an 2:57; see also 7:160).

6. (3747) Speak openly: "Here 'Al is described as the Perfect Man whose actions are divine. It is God's way to kill without sword, i.e. to mortify the carnal soul and bestow spiritual life. The
forbearance and generosity of 'Al had killed the unbelief of his foe and opened his heart to knowledge and love of God." (Nicholson, Commentary)

7. (3751) those who are present [here]: "may mean 'those who are present with God', i.e. in comparison with 'Al even the greatest adepts are blind and ignorant." (Nicholson, Commentary)

8. (3789) You did not throw when you threw': Qur'an 8:17. "At the battle of Badr the Prophet threw a handful of gravel in the faces of the Quraysh, who immediately fled before the Moslem onset. The Qur'n declares that the gravel was really thrown by God, 'that He might give the true believers a good proof of His favour'." (Nicholson, Commentary)

9. (3789) like the sun: this is a word-play on the Persian idiom for a ray of sunlight, which is poetically compared to the gleam of sunlight reflected from a polished sword. "Tgh-i ftb [= sword of the sun] means 'sunbeam.'" (Nicholson, Commentary)

10. (3792) I make men living: "i.e. 'I endow the soul with spiritual life by destroying the evil qualities which defile its purity, as a sheeny sword is tarnished by blood.'" (Nicholson, Commentary)

11. (3794) I am a mountain: "Cf. the saying al-rijl ka-'l-jibl, 'holy men are like the mountains', i.e. they have attained to tamkn [= being solidly established], so that the fierce blasts of sensual
passion leave them unmoved." (Nicholson, Commentary)

12. (3797) remembrance of Him: Nicholson later corrected his translation here, based on the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawi, to: "my wind (the wind that moves me) is recollection of Him"
(from "is His wind").

13. (3800) like mercy: "i.e. 'to me the Divine attribute of wrath has appeared in the form of mercy'. In God, and consequently in the Perfect man, mercy prevails over wrath: his anger is a disguised
grace (lutf-i khaf)." (Nicholson, Commentary)

14. (3801) my roof is destroyed: "i.e. 'my egotism is destroyed, I am dead to self.' (Nicholson, Commentary)

15. (3801) the Father of Dust: "The name Ab Turb is said to have been given to 'Al by the Prophet, who on one occasion found him lying asleep on the ground and covered with dust." (Nicholson, Commentary)

16. (3802) my sword: Nicholson later corrected this translation, based on the earliest edition of the Mathnawi, to: "Since a motive (other than God) entered (my heart) in the (holy) war, I deemed it right to sheathe the sword" (from: "Since (the thought of something) other than God has intervened, it behoves (me) to sheathe my sword."

17. (3803) for (the sake of) God: refers to a Tradition of the Prophet: "If the (faithful) believer loves, he loves for (the sake of) God, and if he is angry, he is angry for (the sake of) God, and if he is generous, he is generous for (the sake of) God, and if he withholds, it is for (the sake of) God. For he is from God, he belongs to God, and is (returning) toward) God." (Translated from Nicholson's quotation of the Arabic, Commentary)

18. (3806) (direct) vision: literally, "seeing." Nicholson translated it as "intuition," and added, "immediate vision (mu`yanah), in which every doubt vanishes." (Commentary)

19. (3807) (hem of) the robe: an idiom meaning earnest supplication. Grasping the bottom edge of someone's robe was an action expressing the need for protection or supplication for a request.
Nicholson interprets this line: "i.e. 'my heart is firmly attached to the Divine command.'" (Commentary)

3721 az `al mz ikhlS- `amal
shr- Haq-r dn muTahhar az daghal

dar ghaz bar pahlawn dast yft
zd shamshr bar ward-o shetft

khad andkht dar ry- `al
iftikhr- har nabiyy-o har wal

n khad zad bar rokh ke ry- mh
sajda r-ad psh- dar sajda-gh

3725 dar zamn andakht shamshr n `al
kard andar ghaz-ash khil

gasht Hayrn n mubriz z-n `amal
w-az namdan `afw-o raHmat b-maHal

goft bar man tgh- tz afrsht-
az che afkand- ma-r be-g'Zsht-?

n che dd- behtar az paykr- man
t shod- t sost dar ishkr- man?

n che dd- ke chon-n khashm-at neshast
t chon-n barq namd-o bz jast?

3730 n che dd- ke ma-r z-n `aks- dd
dar del-o jn shu`la'y m-ad padd?

n che dd- bartar az kawn-o makn
ke beh az jn bd-o bakhshd--m jn?

dar shaj`at shr- rabbn-st-
dar murwat khwad ke dn-ad k-st-

3733 dar murwat abr- ms- ba-th
k-mad az way khwn-o nn- b-shabh

3745 ay `al ke jomla `aql-o dda-
shamma'y w g az n-che dda-

tgh- Hilm-at jn- m-r chk kard
b- `ilm-at khk- m-r pk kard

bz g dn-am ke n asrr- h-st
z-n-ke b-shamshr koshtan kr- -st

Sni`- b-lat-o b-jriHa
whib- n hadya-hy- rjiHa

Sad hazr-n may chashn-ad hsh-r
ke khabar na-b'w-ad d chashm-o gsh-r

3750 bz g ay bz- `arsh- khwash-shekr
t che dd- n zamn az kardegr?

3751 chashm- t idrk- ghayb mkhta
chashm-hy- HZir-n bar dkhta

3787 goft man tgh az pay- Haq m-zan-am
banda-y Haq-am, na ma'mr- tan-am

shr- Haq-am, nst-am shr- haw
fa`l- man bar dn- man bsh-ad gow

m ramayta iZ ramayta-m dar Hirb
man ch tgh-am-w-n zananda ftb

3790 rakht- khwad-r man ze-rah bar dsht-am
ghayr- Haq-r man `adam angsht-am

sya'y-am kad-khod-am ftb
Hjib-am man, nst-am -r Hijb

man ch tgh-am por-gawhar-hy- wiSl
zenda gardn-am na koshta dar qitl

khn na-psh-ad gawhar- tgh- ma-r
bd az j kay mord mgh- mar-?

kah na-y-am kh-am ze-Hilm-o Sabr-o dd
kh-r kay dar roby-ad tond-bd?

3795 n-ke az bd raw-ad az j khas-st
z-n-ke bd- n-muwfiq khwad bas-st

bd- khashm-o bd- shahwat bd- z
bord -r ke na-bd ahl- namz

kh-am-o hasty- man bonyd- -st
w-ar shaw-am chn kh, bd-am yd- -st

joz ba-bd- na-jonb-ad mayl- man
nst joz `ishq- aHad sar-khayl- man

khashm bar shh-n shah-o m-r ghulm
khashm-r ham basta-am zr- legm

3800 tgh- Hilm-am gardan- khashm-am zad-ast
khashm- Haq bar man ch raHmat mad-ast

3800 gharq- nr-am, gar-che saqf-am shod kharb
rawZa gasht-am, gar-che hast-am b turb

chn dar m-ad `illat andar ghaz
tgh-r dd-am nehn kardan saz

t aHabba li-llh y-ad nm- man
t ke abghaZ li-llh y-ad km- man

t ke a`T li-llh y-ad jd- man
t ke amsak li-llh y-ad bd- man

bukhl- man li-llh `aT li-llh-o bas
jomla li-llh-am ney-am man n- kas

3805 w-n-che li-llh m-kon-am taqld nst
nst takhyl-o gomn joz dd nst

z-ijtihd-o az taHarr rasta-am
stn bar dman- Haq basta-am

gar ham parr-am, ham bn-am maTr
w-ar ham gard-am, ham bn-am madr

3809 w-ar kash-am br be-dn-am t koj
mh-am-o khworshd psh-am pshw



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