Friday, June 08, 2007

"The Virtues of Water"


Here, Sunlight offers a selection from the Mathnawi, Book V,
Verses 199-235, as translated, transliterated, and footnoted, by Dr.
Ibrahim Gamard. Sunlight thanks Dr. Gamard for his contributions and
friendship. At the end of the post, a link to the Persian media will
be found.


The Virtues of Water

Mathnawi V: 199-235

Water rained (down) from the starry heavens* for this sake: so
that it might purify those who are unclean from impurity.

Regarding the cleansing by water of all impurities, and (how)
God Most High then cleanses the water (itself) from impurity.
Undoubtedly, God the Exalted is Most Pure and Holy!

When water battled (impurity) and became dirty,* so that it became
such that the senses refused (to accept) it,
God brought it back to the Ocean of Rightness, so that the Water*
of the water might wash it (clean), from (Divine) Generosity.
The following year it came (back), dragging (its long clean) robe.
"Hey, where were you?" [said the Earth]. "In the ocean of the good
and sweet ones.
"I went from this place (in a) dirty (condition), (then) I became
pure. I took (back) a robe of honor* (and) came (once more) to the
"Look! Come to me, O impure ones, since my nature has taken
(something) from the manner of God.
"I will accept all your foulness, (and) will give purity like
(that of) an angel to the demon.
"(And) when I become polluted, I'll go back to that (heavenly)
place: I'll go to the Origin of the origin of pure things.
"I'll tear the dirty garment off (my) head there, (and) He will
give me a pure robe of honor once again.
"This is His work, and my work is the same. (And) the Adorner
of the world is "the Lord and Sustainer of the Universe!"*
If these impurities of our had not existed, the water would never
have had this exaltation.
It stole pouches of gold from someone* (and then) runs in each
direction, saying, "Look here! Where is a penniless person?"
Either it scatters (gold)* upon some grown plant, or it washes the
face of some unwashed face.
Or it takes a ship upon its head,* like a porter-- (a ship)
helpless in the seas.
A hundred thousand remedies (are) hidden in it,* because every
remedy grows from it in this way.
The soul of every pearl (and) the heart of every grain* goes into
the river (for healing) as (into) a drugstore.
There is nourishment from it for the orphans of the earth, (and)
there is movement from it for the dried-up ones who are chained and
When its measured amount no longer remains, it becomes murky;
it becomes fatigued, like us, on the earth.

How the water, after becoming murky, asks help from God,
may His Grandeur be glorified

It (then) raises up a wailing cry from within (itself): "O God!
That which You gave (me) I've given (away), and (now) I remain a
(poor) beggar.
"I scattered the (entire) stock upon (both) pure and the impure. O
King, (You are) the Giver of (all) assets: 'Are there any more?'"*
(God) said to the cloud, "Take (the water) to the place of
(And) you also, O sun, draw up (the water) to the heights."
(God) drives it (along) various pathways so that He may bring it
to the limitless ocean.
But the aim of (mentioning) this water is (to symbolize) the
spirit of the saints,* for it is something for washing (away) your
muddy (stains).
When it becomes murky from washing* the people of the earth, it
turns back to the Giver of Purity to the heavens.
(Then), dragging (its) robe (of honor), it brings back lessons
from that (lofty) direction-- about the holy purities of (God), the
It frees all from (having to do) the ritual washing with sand,*
and seekers of the prayer direction* from choosing an intention.*
From being mixed with the people, it obtains a weak condition.*
(And so) it seeks (to make) that journey (again, saying), "Revive us,
O Bilal!
"O melodious and sweet-toned Bilal,* go up into the minaret (and)
pound the drum of departure for a journey!"*
While the body (is) in the standing (position of the prayer),* the
spirit has gone on a journey. (And) at the time of (its) return, it
says (the greeting of) "Peace (be upon you)!"* for this reason.
This parable is like an intermediary within (this) speech,
(because) an intermediary is a condition (needed) for the common
people's understanding.
(For) without an intermediary no one can ever go into the fire--
except a salamander,* who has escaped from (the need for a)
It's necessary for you to have the intermediary of the hot bath so
that your (bodily) nature may benefit from the fire.
Since you can't go (directly) into the fire, like Abraham,* the
hot bath is your Prophet (and) the water (is) your guide.
(True) fullness is from God, yet the people preoccupied with soil*
will never reach satisfaction without the intermediary of bread.
(True) gracefulness is from God,* yet the people the body won't
find subtle beauty without the (lovely) veil of the garden.
If the intermediary of the body were to cease, he would find the
light of the moon (shining) from (his) chest without (any) veil, like
The virtues of water are also witnesses that its inner (nature) is
full of the Grace of God.

-- From "The Mathnawî-yé Ma`nawî" [Rhymed Couplets of
Deep Spiritual Meaning] of Jalaluddin Rumi.
Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard (with
gratitude for R.A. Nicholson's 1934 British
(c) Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)

*from the starry heavens [simâk]: literally, "the Two Fishes,"
meaning two stars, one of which is Arcturus. This word was chosen
(rather than "from the clouds" or "sky") for the rhyme.
*and become dirty: Nicholson translated, "When the water had done
battle (in its task of ablution)..." This is because the immediate
meaning of this passage has to do with the ritual ablutions required
before the Islamic prayers can be performed. The hands, face, arms,
and feet are washed with clean water. This is done with prayer, with
the intention that impurities, both outward and inward, may be
removed. On a deeper level, Nicholson explains: "The water is a type
of the saintly spirit which, when it is soiled through contact with
human sin, renews its purity by union with God." (footnote)
*the Water: "i.e. God, from whom the saints derive their power to
purify the soul." (Nicholson, Commentary)
*a robe of honor: given as a reward to subjects by kings. It
consisted, at the least, of a robe, a turban, and a waist sash.
*the Lord and Sustainer of the Universe: "Praise be to God, the
Lord and Sustainer of the Universe" [literally, "of (all) the worlds"]
(Qur'an I: 2)
*from someone: "I.e. it received the treasure of Divine grace."
(Nicholson, footnote)
*it scatters (gold): Nicholson translated, "Either it sheds (the
treasure)..." He explained: "I.e. it endows the vegetable soul with
capacity for spiritual progress." (footnote) This means that the plant
is graced with the opportunity to be eaten by an animal, so as to
become part of the next higher level, animality.
*it washes the face of some unwashed face: may refer to the ritual
ablutions made with water, required before the Islamic prayers. See
note above.
*it takes a ship upon its head: "I.e. it uplifts those who are
struggling with doubt and despair and bears them onward to
salvation." (Nicholson, footnote)
*A hundred thousand remedies (are) hidden in it: "As water is the
source of all material life (Qur. XXI 31[= "And We have made every
living thing from water"]), so the holy 'water" contains and produces
from itself every cure for spiritual maladies." (Nicholson,
*every pearl (and) the heart of every grain: "Durr [= pearl] and
dánah [= grain] may signify the enlightened and ignorant
respectively." (Nicholson, Commentary)
* "Are there any more?": from Qur'an 50:30.
*the spirits of the saints: means those holy souls who (whether
living or departed) remain in a state of nearness to God, and have
special powers of intercession, by the permission of God.
*washing [ghusl]: this word was added on the margin of the earliest
manuscript as a correction to the original word, "ghadr"-- treachery,
villainy. Nicholson translated using the latter: "When it is stained
dark by (washing) the treason of the inhabitants of the earth..."
*the ritual washing with sand: if no water is available for the
ritual washing, Muslims may use clean sand (or pat a clean rock, if no
sand is available).
*the prayer direction [qibla]: the direction toward which all Muslims
pray-- toward Mecca, where the temple dedicated to pure
monotheism, called the Ka`ba, is located.
*choosing an intention: means that if water is available, no
intention of searching for nearby water is needed (after which sand
could be substituted).
In the earliest manuscript, it is written on the margin that this
line should follow line 223 (rather than line 226, where it is
situated). Nicholson noted that "corrections made in the two oldest
MSS. suggest that it would be more apropos there." (Commentary)
*a weak condition [i`tilâl]: In Tawfiq Subhani's edition of the
earliest manuscript there appears to be a typographical error
("i`tidâl"-- moderation, equilibrium) which makes no sense in the
context of the verse. Nicholson's text, also based on the earliest
manuscript has "i`tilâl," which makes complete sense.
*Bilal: a favorite companion of the Prophet Muhammad. Formerly a
black slave owned by a cruel pagan Arab master, he was the first
Muslim to recite the call to prayer, by which all Muslims within
hearing distance perform the prayers five times a day (God is Most
Great! I bear witness that there is no divinity but God! I bear
witness that Muhammad is the Prophet of God! Come to the prayer! Come
to (spiritual) happiness! God is Most Great! There is no divinity but
God!). According to a tradition, the Prophet selected Bilal for this
task, because of the latter's pleasant voice, and used to say when the
time for prayers approached, "O Bilal, revive us (with the call to
prayer)!" Nicholson explains this as meaning: "i.e. 'relieve us from
the cares of this world by chanting the adhán (call to prayer'."
*the drum of departure for a journey: refers to the Islamic ritual
prayer, which can allow the spirit to make a similar journey from this
world into Heaven as was made by the Prophet during his Ascension
*the standing (position of the prayer): refers to the start of the
prayer, when the praying person stands and makes the intention to
enter into the sacred time of prayer. From then on, the focus is on
being in the presence of God, and this state cannot be interrupted by
the distractions of this world until the prayer is completed. "On the
mystical significance of qiyám [= the standing posture], and the other
postures of the salát [= the ritual prayer], see III 2140-2166..."
(Nicholson, Commentary)
*Peace (be upon you): These are the words which are said to end
being in the sacred time of prayer, after which one can move about
and interact with other people as usual.
*a salamander: "The salamander, which (according to Moslem
naturalists) 'usually lives in the fire', serves as a symbol for the
mystic whose perception of reality is intuitive." (Nicholson,
Commentary) Thus, the salamander was believed to have the
miraculous ability to be "at home" in fire, and needed no intermediary
or connecting link.
*into the fire, like Abraham: The Prophet Abraham was thrown into
fiery furnace for opposing polytheism, but God protected him by
commanding, "O fire, be coolness and a (place of) safety for
Abraham" (Qur'an 21:69).
*the people (preoccupied) with soil: means those who are overly
interested in material concerns. Bread is connected to the soil, from
being made from grain.
*(True) gracefulness is from God: Nicholson referred here to Rumi's
story of the sufi who contemplated the beauty of the garden within
his own heart (Mathnawi IV, starting at line 1358).
*like Moses: On the same occasion when God commanded Moses to
throw down his staff, which miraculously became a snake, He also
commanded him to press his hand into his side, and his hand emerged
shining white (Qur'an 7:108; 20: 22; 27: 12; 28: 32)-- symbolizing
the gift of prophecy. Here, Rumi interprets that it was the luminous
whiteness within the chest of Moses, which caused his hand to
become white.


âb bahr-é în be-bârîd az simâk
tâ palîd-ân-râ kon-ad az khubS pâk

pâk kardan-é âb hama-yé palîdî-hâ-râ wa bâz pâk kardan
khodây-é ta`âlà âb-râ az palîdî, lâ-jaram quddûs âmad Haqq

âb chûn paygâr kard-o shod najis
tâ chon-ân shod k-âb-râ rad kard His

Haq bo-bord-ash bâz dar baHr-é Sawâb
tâ be-shost-ash az karam ân âb-ê âb

sâl-é dêgar âmad ô dâman-kashân
hay ko-jâ bûd-î? ba-daryây-é khwash-ân

man najis z-în-jâ shod-am, pâk âmad-am
be-s'tad-am khil`at sôy-é khâk âmad-am

hîn be-y-ây-îd ay palîd-ân sôy-é man
ke gereft az khôy-é yazdân khôy-é man

dar paZîr-am jumla-yé zeshtî-t-râ
chûn malak pâkî deh-am `ifrît-râ

chûn shaw-am âlûda, bâz ân-jâ raw-am
sôy-é aSl-é aSl-é pâkî-hâ raw-am

dalaq-é cherkîn bar kan-am ân-jâ ze-sar
khil`at-é pâk-am deh-ad bâr-ê degar

kâr-é ô în-ast-o kâr-é man ham-în
`âlam-ârây-ast rabbu 'l-`âlamîn

gar na-bûdy în palîdî-hây-é mâ
kay body în bâr-nâma âb-râ?

kîsa-hây-é zar be-dozdîd az kasê
me-raw-ad har sô ke hîn, kô muflisê?

yâ be-rêz-ad bar geyâh-é rosta-yê
yâ be-shôy-ad rôy-é rô-nâ-shosta-yê

yâ be-gîr-ad bar sar ô, hammâl-wâr
kashtiy-é bê-dast-o pâ-râ dar biHâr

Sad hazâr-ân dârô andar way nehân
z-ân-ke har dârô be-rôy-ad z-ô chon-ân

jân-é har dorrê, del-é har dâna-yê
mê-raw-ad dar jô chô dârô-khâna-yê

z-ô yatîm-ân-é zamîn-râ parwaresh
basta-gân-é khoshk-râ az way rawesh

chûn na-mân-ad mâya-ash, têra shaw-ad
ham-chô mâ andar zamîn khêra shaw-ad

ist`ânat âb az Haqq-- jalla jalâlu-hu-- ba`d az têra shodan

nâla az bâTin bar âr-ad k-ay khodâ
ân-che dâr-î, dâd-am-o mând-am gadâ

rêkht-am sarmâya bar pâk-o palîd
ay shah-é sarmâya-deh hal min mazîd?

abr-râ gôy-ad bo-bar jây-é khwash-ash
ham tô khworshîd-â ba-bâlâ bar kash-ash

râh-hây-é mukhtalif mê-rând-ash
tâ rasân-ad sôy-é baHr-é bê-Had-ash

khwad gharaZ z-în âb jân-é awliyâ-st
k-ô ghasûl-é têragî-hây-é shomâ-st

chûn shaw-ad têra ze-ghusl-é ahl-é farsh
bâz gard-ad sôy-é pâkî-bakhsh-é `arsh

bâz âr-ad z-ân Taraf dâman-kashân
az Tahârât-é muHîT ô dars-eshân

az tayammum wâ rahân-ad jomla-râ
w-az taHarri Tâlib-ân-é qibla-râ

z-ikhtilâT-é khalq yâb-ad i`tilâl
ân safar jôy-ad ke ariH-nâ yâ bilâl

ay bilâl-é khwash-nawây-é khwash-Sahîl
mîZana bar raw, be-zan Tabl-é raHîl

jân safar raft-o badan andar qiyâm
waqt-é rij`at z-în sabab gôy-ad salâm

în mathal chûn wâsiTa-st andar kalâm
wâsiTa sharT-ast bahr-é fahm-é `âm

andar âtesh kay raw-ad bê-wâsiTa
joz samandar, k-ô rahîd az râbiTa?

wâsiTa-yé Hammâm bây-ad mar to-râ
tâ ze-âtesh khwash kon-î tô Tab`-râ

chûn na-tân-î shod dar âtesh chûn khalîl
gasht Hammâm-at rasûl, âb-at dalîl

sêrî az Haqq-ast lêk ahl-é Taba`
kay ras-ad bê-wâsiTa-yé nân dar shiba`?

luTf az Haqq-ast, lêkin ahl-é tan
dar na-yâb-ad luTf bê-parda-yé chaman

chûn na-mân-ad wâsiTa-yé tan bê-Hijâb
ham-chô mûsà nûr-é mah yâb-ad ze-jayb

în honar-hâ âb-râ ham shâhid-ast
k-andarûn-ash por ze-luTf-é îzad-ast

The media:




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