Companionship With The Saints

Mathnawi I: 716-726

716 The sword [of spiritual protection] is in the armory1 of the
saints;2 for you, meeting them is the alchemical elixir.3

All of the wise ones have said this same thing: the wise man4 is "a
mercy to all the worlds."5

If you buy a pomegranate, buy it laughing (and open-mouthed)6 so
that its laughing may give information about (the state of its) seeds.

Oh (how) blessed is its laughter, since it is showing (its) heart by
means of (its) mouth, like the pearl [of the soul] from the (open)
box of the spirit.7

720 The laughter of the tulip8 was not blessed, since the blackness
of (its) heart was revealed by its mouth.9

The laughing pomegranate makes the (entire) garden laughing;
(likewise,) companionship10 with (spiritual) men makes you (one)
of (such) men.

Even if you are a hard rock or marble, if you come to (the presence
of) a lord of the heart,11 you will become a jewel.

Put love for the pure ones into the midst of (your) spirit. Don't
give (your) heart (to anyone) except in love for those (who have)
joyous hearts.

Don't go (into) the lane of hopelessness,12 (for) there are (still)
hopes. (And) don't go (in) the direction of darkness, (for) there are
(still) suns [to rise].

725 The heart draws you into the lane of the people of heart,13 (but) the
body draws you into the prison of water and clay.14

726 Take care, (and) give food for (your) heart from [the company
of] a sympathetic friend.15 Go (and) seek coming near [to the goal]
from one who is advancing first."16

--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 1926 British translation)
Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (, 11/4/99

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (716) armory: this word means a shop where coats of mail, made
of iron rings, were made.

2. (716) the saints: "The saints alone can provide you with the
needful weapons. Love and honour the men of God and become
like them." (Nicholson, Commentary)

3. (716) alchemical elixir: means that being in the company of the
sufi saints is not only the best protection, it leads to spiritual
transformation in their presence (just like lead or copper is
transformed into gold by contact with the elixir, or Philosopher's
Stone). "Those who see the saints as they really are and follow
them devotedly will experience a spiritual transformation."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

4. (717) the wise man: "the gnostic who, according to the Súfí
interpretation of the Hadíth al-`ulamá warathatu 'l-anbiyá [= the
saying of the Prophet, "the learned are the heirs of the prophets"],
is the spiritual heir of the prophets and of the Prophet Mohammed
in particular." (Nicholson, Commentary)

5. (717) a mercy to all the worlds: "And We have not sent you [O
Prophet], except as a mercy to (all) the worlds." (Qur'an 21:107)
The words "to all the worlds" means "toward all mankind."
Nicholson added: "I.e. the prophet or saint who knows God."

6. (718) laughing (and open-mouthed): Nicholson translated, " buy (it
when it is) laughing (having its rind cleft open), so that its laughter

7. (719) box of the spirit: "I.e. 'if you are seeking a guide on the way
to God, attach yourself to a saint from whose lips flow the words
that reveal a heart illumined with Divine love and mystic
knowledge, just as the bursting (khandah) of a ripe pomegranate
displays the seeds enveloped in its red pulp.'" (Nicholson,

8. (720) the laughter of the tulip: "laughter" of flowers is an idiom for
opening of the buds, which resembles the happy display of teeth of
the open-mouthed laughing person.

9. (720) its mouth: may mean that when it opened its mouth to laugh,
it revealed foul and black-appearing "teeth," interpreted here as
bad character. "The religious hypocrite, when unmasked,
resembles a full-blown Persian tulip showing 'the blackness of its
heart', i.e. the dark centre of its calyx." (Nicholson, Commentary)

10. (721) companionship [suHbat]: a technical sufi term, meaning
spiritual blessing and transformation received by being in the
company, and hearing the inspired words, of a spiritual master.
This is also an expression of a frequent teaching of Rumi's: that a
person takes on the (good or bad) qualities of those whose
company is shared.

11. (722) lord of the heart: may also be translated as "possessor of the
heart," "one possessed of heart." Means a sufi saint, who has
mastered desires and passions and has a heart full of love for God.
" possessed of spiritual apprehension, i.e. an adept in
mysticism." (Nicholson, Commentary)

12. (724) hopelessness: "To despair of God's grace is an act of
infidelity (Qur. XII 87." (Nicholson, Commentary)

13. (725) the people of heart: means the sufis, the true lovers of God.

14. (725) water and clay: means the human body, created from "water"
and "clay" (Qur'an 25:54; 38:71). It also symbolizes the material
world and the limitations of sensory knowledge and experience.

15. (726) a sympathetic friend: literally, "a same-hearted one."

16. (726) one who is advancing first: means, "Seek to draw near to
God by being in the company of one of the sufi saints." May also
be translated, "seek good fortune/prosperity from someone (who
is) fortunate/prosperous." Nicholson translated, "seek (spiritual)
advancement from one who is advanced." Nicholson explained:
"Muqbil, one whose heart is turned towards the Truth."

716 têgh dar zarrâd-khâna-yé awliyâ-st
dîdan-é êshân shomâ-râ kîmiyâ-st

jomla dânâ-yân ham-în gofta ham-în
hast dânâ raHmat-an li-l-`âlamîn

gar anârê mê-khar-î khandân be-khar
tâ deh-ad khanda ze-dâna-yé ô khabar

ay mubârak khanda-ash k-ô az dahân
mê-nomây-ad del chô durr az durj-é jân

720 nâ-mubârak khanda-yé ân lâla bûd
k-az dahân-é ô seyâhî-yê del namûd

nâr-é khandân bâgh-râ khandân kon-ad
SuHbat-é mardân-at az mard-ân kon-ad

gar tô sang-é Sakhra-wo marmar shaw-î
chûn ba-sâHib-del ras-î gawhar shaw-î

mehr-é pâk-ân dar meyân-é jân neshân
del ma-deh illâ ba-mehr-é del-khôsh-ân

kôy-é nawmêdî ma-raw ômêd-hâ-st
sôy-é târêkî ma-raw khworshêd-hâ-st

725 del to-râ dar kôy-é ahl-é del kash-ad
tan to-râ dar Habs-é âb-o gel kash-ad

726 Hîn ghaZây-é del be-deh az ham-delê
raw be-jô iqbâl-râ az muqbilê

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)