Concerning Selections from the Ma`ârif of Bahâ'uddîn Walad, the father of Mawlana Rumi

The Ma`ârif ("Mystical Knowings") is a kind of diary of the mystical experiences and visions of Mawlana Rumi's father, Bahâ'uddîn Walad. It was written in Persian and edited by Forûzânfar in two volumes. Only the first nineteen sections have been published in English translation, by A.J. Arberry in 1964 (there are 268 sections in the first volume). Franklin Lewis translated the entire text some years ago, and more recently revised the translation with the help of an Iranian scholar, Hassan Lahouti. Hopefully, this translation will be published soon.

In addition, there is a book of selections made into interpretive versions by Coleman Barks, based on translations (from the Foruzanfar edition) by John Moyne (Jâvîd Mo`în). This book should not be viewed as a selection of translations; it is a selection of versions. Therefore, the title page of the book is misleading when it states, "Translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne". When C. Barks, not knowing Persian, makes interpretive versions from someone else's literal translations, he omits, changes, and adds his own ideas and poetic images as he likes. This can be seen by the examples below, when his versions are compared with Arberry's accurate translations. This book is not recommended Despite all his poetic skills and efforts to make J. Moyne's translation more pleasant to read, C. Barks can only reduce to superficial truncation the profound visions of Mawlana's father. And when Barks' versions are compared with the accurate translation, one has the impression that Moyne's translation was not very reliable either.

In the three examples below, some words and phrases from the Persian text have been added by me, placed in double brackets. The first quote of two is Arberry's translation of a section; the second quote of two is Barks' version of the same section.


'Guide us on the straight path' (Koran I: 6). I said, 'O God, of Thy favour convey every part of me to the city of joy and ease, and open to every part of me a thousand portals of joy.' The straight path is that which conveys a man to the city of joy, and the crooked path is that which conveys not a man to the city of joy.

Even so I saw that God had given me and all my parts to taste the savour of all lovely ones, so that it was as if every part of me was commingled with every part of them; and milk came flowing out of every part of me. Every conceivable form of beauty and perfection and savour and love--all of these became as it were visible out of God's essence in the six directions of me. Just as when a man possesses an azure robe, and on that robe are figures of every kind, and every manner of shapes and hues, even so God manifests in me out of Himself a hundred thousand forms of sense and perception; and I behold the forms of all beauteous and lovely ones and their loves, and harmonies, and the forms of all intelligible things, maidens of Paradise and palaces and running water and other marvels beyond all reckoning. I contemplate these forms, that so much beauty appears arrayed within me; God shows me every form that I desire, and I see that those all become visible ut of the part of me. And I saw that God had made to appear a hundred thousand fragrant herbs, rose and rose-garden, jasmine yellow and white, and had converted the parts of me into a rose-bower Then God squeezed all those and made them into rose-water; out of its sweet perfume He created maidens of Paradise, and mingled all the parts of me with them. So I saw in truth that all lovely forms are the form of the fruit of God, and all of these delights come to me from God even in this present world.

If they say, 'Do you see God, or do you not see?' I answer, 'Of myself I do not see, for "Thou shalt not see Me" (Koran VII: 143). But when He shows Himself, what can I do not to see?

--Ma`ârif-e Bahâ'u'd-dîn Walad, Chapter 1, literal translation

--translated by A.J. Arberry as "Mystical Moments" in "Aspects of Islamic Civilization: As Depicted in the Original Text," Allen & Unwin, 1964, pp. 227-229


Show the true way (Qur'an 1:6)

I have been given a taste for what is beautiful. Like milk running through my body, the gates open. I wear a blue robe woven of six directions with watercolor images flowing over the cloth, a thousand kinds of flowers, yellow jasmine, wild iris. Orchard corridors, handsome faces on the street, I am composed of this beauty, the attar of pressed plants, rose oil, resinous balsam: live essence, I am the intelligent juice of flowers.

--version by Coleman Barks based on a literal translation by John Moyne

-- "The Drowned Book: Ecstatic and Earthly Reflection of Bahauddin the Father of Rumi," HarperSanFrancisco, 2004, p. 1


I was seated. I said, 'Wherewithal shall I busy myself?' God inspired me, saying, 'I gave thouness to thee for this purpose, that when thou becomes distraught [[khîra]] in Me, and thy heart is weary of My nearness, thou mayest gaze upon thyself and become busy with thyself.' I said, 'Then there are two existents: one God, and one myself. If I gaze upon God, I become distraught; and if I gaze upon myself, I become confused [[fikâr]]. Perchance I should offer up myself.' I gaze upon God, saying, 'O God, Thou hast set before me this broth of being, with all its filth and sourness, a nauseating morsel. It is this that troubles me. Take this away from me, that Thy comfort, O God, may emerge out of the veil. With such a morsel how can I find happiness? Let me gaze only upon this self of mine: God has given me this in order that I may offer it up.' And I weep, and I consider its state, what it will do in the moment of giving up the ghost and how it will die.

I saw that little by little my meditation diminished, and sleep began to overcome me. I said, 'Perchance this is because I am not making an effort.' So I return to meditating, until I fall asleep. When I am asleep, it is as though I resemble a tree in that I am in the earth. If when sleeping I am unaware, it is as though I lift my head up from the earth. When I gaze a little upon myself, it is as though I grow tall. When I gaze with my eyes and move with my body, it is as though branches are sprouting from me. When I make a greater effort with all my heart to meditate, it is as though I am producing clusters of flowers. When I utter on my tongue the remembrance of God, it is as though I am bearing fruit. So veil on veil is removed; the more effort I make, the more marvellous are the things that seem to emerge out of me; as though all these things are in the mouth of not-being, and not- being has placed its mouth on my mouth.

--Ma`ârif-e Bahâ'u'd-dîn Walad, from Chapter 6, literal translation

--trans. by Arberry, pp. 235-236


I was sitting, wondering what I should do, when I received this revelation: Open your heart. Feel the closeness with God. Look inside yourself. Tend the awareness there.

Which led me to think, There are two entities here, God and myself. God, the dazzling mystery; me, the confused mixture of dead and bitter thatI must suffer through to reach God.

Tangled in these thoughts, I get drowsy. In sleep I become a night- silent tree, rooted in nonbeing. As I wake the tree puts forth branches and leaves. Eyesight returns; limbs move in the air. My heart feels like flowers opening along a branch. Prayer expands to become fruit, and nonbeing is the taste of language in my mouth.

--version by Barks, based on a translation by Moyne, pp. 4-5



Baha'uddin Walad did not say, in the first selection, "I am the intelligent juice of flowers". And he did not say, in the second selection, "Prayer expands to become fruit". Rather, he said, "When I utter on my tongue the remembrance of God, it is as though I am bearing fruit." [chûn ba-Zikr ba-zabân bar mê-ây-am, gô-î (ke) mîwa bêrûn mê-âr-am] He did not say, "nonbeing is the taste of language in my mouth." Rather, he said, "as though all these things are in the mouth of not-being, and not-being has placed its mouth on my mouth." [în hama-râ gô-î ke dar dahân-e `adam-ast wa `adam dahân bar dahân-e man nehâda-ast, wa 'llâhu a`lam]



In order to understand the beginning of Bahâ'uddîn Walad's 13th section, the "prostration of obeisance" needs to be explained. This is not a prostration of worship and it is not an Islamic prostration. It derives from the ancient prostration of obedience to the authority and superior rank of a king. It was adopted by sufis, whose humble buildings were likened to a royal court [dargâh] and whose sufi master [murshid, shaykh] was a kind of dervish "king", toward whom disciples prostrated when entering the room. According to Aflâkî, Mawlana Rumi defended this type of prostration. Interestingly, Bahâ'uddîn interprets it as bowing to his spirit, which is also an interpretation of how the angels bowed in obeisance to Adam (Qur'ân 2:34), to signify their acceptance of his superior spiritual rank.


I was seated in the mosque at morning. Everyone was saluting and bowing [[har kasê salâm mê-goft-and wa sujûd mê-kard-and]]. I said, "God is presenting my spirit to them; He is adorning my spirit and showing it to them adorned. So they are seeing those traces of God's handiwork and are bowing to me out of love for God [[ma-râ sajda mê-kon-and az dôstî-yé allâh]]. Even though that be out of hypocrisy and deceit and fraud, all the same that too is God's adornment.

When I see the people bowing to to my spirit [[chûn khalq-ân-râ sâjid-é rûH-é khwod mê-bîn-am]], I offer God all the more thanks. And I see that God sometimes knots my spirit with other men's spirits, and sometimes unbinds them and brings each one into its separate place. I saw that all this was by the decree of the Living, the Eternal One; and that I brought the Living, Eternal God before my heart, and gazed upon the life and craftsmanship  of God, and my heart became alive. Again I gazed at the attribute of my own perception and saw that God has detained a certain folk in the chastisement of cold and bitter chill, while others He has detained in heat and fire.

I gazed next at the world, and saw that the world was duly ordered. I gazed again at the world, and saw all influences and causes. I gazed again, and saw an infinite smooth ocean, and I saw not-being [[`adam]] surging incessantly, and valleys outstretched. Once more I gazed upon the world, and I saw neither particles nor aught outstretched. I gazed again upon the world, and discovered Him only who has no associate [[waHdahu lâ sharîka la-hu]]. Then I gazed upon the infinite and unlimited attributes, and saw that there no ocean manifests and is naughted again.

Again I gazed and saw some folk plunged in joy and ecstasy and gladness. I said, "These are the people of Paradise." Others I saw wailing in agony ; I said, "These are the people of Hell." I gazed again and saw envy and hatred and enmity in some men. I said, "Let me at least gaze behind these, that I may see who it is that has set these things in the air and is showing them to me." I saw how that God had taken them in His hand and was holding them before me, that I might see; He was drawing these pictures before me, to draw me too and adorn me.

In that very moment I saw that that thorn-tree of envy and enmity and hatred had become all jasmine before me, and blossoms and flowers, spilling before me. Again, if sorrow and grief visit me, I see that sorrow and grief are the musky tresses of God which He has scattered over my face. I see again how He lifts them up from me. It is as though God has made these things which I see to be a guide [[rah-namûn karda-ast]], pointing to my venerableness [[ba-`azîz-dâsht-é man]]. For I am the bounty of God [[ke ni`matu 'llâh-am]] and God's bounty is surely to be venerated [[wa ni`matu 'llâh `azîz mê-bây-ad dâshtan wa 'llâhu a`lam]].

--Ma`ârif-e Bahâ'uddîn Walad, Chapter 13


Early each morning I sit in the mosque. As people come in, they give salaams. The peace of God, God's peace. Then they do a full prostration in front of me. I know what God is doing: composing my soul so that it appears with such beauty to these people that they want to honor the workmanship.

Even if they see  my hypocrisy, the conflicting emotions, my love of flattery, still, mostly they recognize the divine attention that has been given to me. I am grateful for the way my soul is sometimes drawn to move with other souls and then separated from them. I observe here a law of soulmaking with exciting possibilities for understanding.

Scenes of how it operates appear: People in arctic cold, others in the tropics. Oceans, high desert canyons, wooded valley, all in harmony with "the One who has no partner." There is a group that sings and moves in pure joy; another is quiet in the midst of tremendous grief and carnage. A tree bristling with thorns: jealousy, meanspirited revenge. Then the white jasmine flowers bud, open, and drop the gift of themselves.

Why are we shown this? So we can appreciate the whole as given. When I am grieved and without hope, I accept that as grace, as well as the removal of pain. A deep knowing comes as we are shown, receive, and grow to love both.

-- "The Drowned Book: Ecstatic and Earthy reflections of Bahauddin The Father of Rumi," translated by John Moyne and interpreted by Coleman Barks, HarperCollins, 2004, p. 6



Baha'uddin Walad did not say, "Even if they see  my hypocrisy..." Rather, he said, "Even though that [[offering of bows of obeisance of theirs]] be out of hypocrisy..." [[agar-che ba-riyâ' wa nifâq wa sâlûs bâsh-ad]]. He did not say, "I observe here a law of soulmaking with exciting possibilities for understanding." Rather, he said, "[[I]] gazed upon the life and craftsmanship  of God" [[wa dar zendagîy-é allâh wa kâr-sâzî-yé way naZar mê-kard-am]]. Barks' version avoids the religious reference to the people in Hell by a pretense that the reference to people in the arctic or the tropics. When Barks depicts the white jasmine flowers budding and opening, his addition ("and drop the gift of themselves") is his own image. Barks' final interpretation ("A deep knowing comes as we are shown, receive, and grow to love both") contains his own ideas about the reference to sorrow and grief [[gham wa andûh]]. Barks' version omits Baha'uddin Walad's profound conclusion.

Ibrahim Gamard