Breaths of Divine Mercy

Mathnawi I: 1951-1965

In explanation of the Tradition, "Truly, during the days of your
time,1 your Lord has certain breaths2 [of Mercy]. So meet
them [when they occur]!"

1951 The Prophet said, "God's Breaths (of Mercy) are increasing2A
during these days.

"(So) keep your ears and minds (alert) for these times,3 (and)
seize (the opportunity of) such breaths as these."

The breath (of Mercy) came, saw you, and left;
it gave (spiritual) life to whomever it wished, and left.

Another breath has come. Be aware, so that you don't stay back
from this (one) as well, O master of the house.

1955 The soul of fire4 found (itself) being extinguished by it, (and)
from its permanence, the soul of the dead wore a robe [of
everlasting life].

This is the freshness and the movement of the Tooba tree5 (in
Paradise); it isn't like the movements of creatures.

If it should fall upon earth or heaven, their hearts will melt6
(with fear) immediately.

Yet because of [their] fear of this limitless Breath-- read again
(the verse), "But they refused to bear it."7

Otherwise, how would there be (the verse), "They were afraid of
it"?-- unless, from fear of it, the mountain's heart would have bled
(to death).

1960 Last night, this (Breath) gave a different kind of opportunity,
(but) some [desire for] mouthfuls8 came and blocked the way.

For the sake of a mouthful, a Luqman9 has become hostage. (But)
it's the time for Luqman,10 (so) go away, O mouthful!

These itches11 (are) from desire for a mouthful. Keep seeking
(instead to remove) the thorn from the sole of Luqman's (foot).

There is (actually) no thorn, or (even) its shadow, on the sole of
Luqman's (foot), but you don't have the discrimination12 (to see it)
because of (your) greed.

Know (that) the thorn is what you have seen (as) a date, because
you are very blind [in your greed] for food and not-seeing.

1965 Since the soul of Luqman is the rose garden of God, how can
foot of his soul be wounded by a thorn?!

--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" (, 12/2/99

Notes on the text, with line number:

1.(Heading) in the days of your time: "i.e. at all times." (Nicholson,
Commentary) Differently interpreted, it may mean during the
times of the Prophet's companions in his presence, or during the
whole Islamic era initiated by the Prophet and the Revelation he
received-- since Rumi refers to it as current in his day (in line
1960: "Last night, this (Breath) gave a different kind of

2. (Heading) certain breaths: "Only part of the Hadíth is quoted here;
the rest of it runs: la'allahu an tusíba-kum nafhat-un minhá fa-lá
tashqawna abad-an, 'perchance one of the breaths will reach you ,
and then ye will nevermore be miserable'. The following passage
develops the topic of Divine inspiration.... The meaning of nafahát
[= breathings] is brought out in another Hadíth similar to this one:
ta'arradú li-nafaháti rahmati 'lláhi, 'Address yourselves to (i.e.
make yourselves the objects of) the sweet exhalations of Divine
mercy'.... [Regarding the latter words,] Rúmí is thinking especially
of the spiritual teaching, influence, and favours of the saints."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

2A. (1951) increasing: lit., "bringing precedence, priority" [sabaq--
chosen to rhyme with "God," Haqq]. Nicholson translated, "In
these days the breathings of God prevail." "The breaths of God
Most High have become greater during these days. In other words,
in all the times and in all the hours of the day, the breaths of God
are manifesting, and are reaching man, and each of those are
increasing for him in the moment." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

3. (1952) these times: this relates to the sufi teaching of the "spiritual
moment" ["waqt" in Arabic; "dam" in Persian]: the emphasis on
the importance of the spiritual opportunity of the present time,
when spiritual grace, blessing, and realization may occur--
especially in the presence of, or through the connection with, a
spiritual master. Such a moment must not be missed by the mystic
lover of God because of neglect and inattention, which is
symbolized by "falling asleep." The seeker must be wakeful,
attentive, and receptive to what the Beloved may make available to
the heart. Rumi has said, "The sufi is the son of the Moment, O
companion;/ saying 'tomorrow' is not among the conditions for
(being on) the Path" (Mathnawi 1:133). Nicholson wrote: "Waqt [=
time] is used... in one of its technical senses, viz. the moment of
immediate experience of being under Divine control (tasríf).... The
Súfí is 'the son of the moment', i.e. subject to and dependent on the
dominant state, mood, or emotion of the 'moment.'" (Commentary)

4. (1955) the soul of fire: may also be translated, "the life of fire."
Nicholson later changed his translation of the is verse, on the basis
of the earliest manuscripts, to: "The soul of fire gained therefrom
extinction; from its everlastingness, the dead (soul) put on the
mantle (of eternal life)" (from: " extinguisher of (its) fire, the
dead soul felt within itself a movement (of life).").

5. (1956) the Tooba tree [Tûbà]: a tree in Paradise. Nicholson noted
in his Commentary about this verse that, "most manuscripts have
khalqán [= creatures] for haywán [= animals]," but he did not
correct his translation accordingly.

6. (1957) their hearts will melt: literally, "their galls will change to
water." According to ancient Greek physiological psychology, gall
(also called bile) was believed to give men "fiery" courage.

7. (1958) they refused to bear it: from a verse in the Qur'an-- "We
offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains,
but they refused to bear it and they were afraid of it. But man
undertook to bear it. Truly he is (prone to be) unjust, foolish."
(33:72) This verse is usually understood as involving the offer of
free will. Once man accepted free will, he was subject to Divine
punishment for his injustice and foolishness. "In general terms the
'trust' (amánah) which Man alone accepted is the Faith of Islam
and obedience to the Divine Law. Hence Súfís define it as gnosis
(ma`rifah), which is the essence of the Faith; or the inspiration of
Divine Grace and Love (al-faydu 'l-iláhí), in virtue of which Man
is the viceregent (khalífah) of God and displays all the Divine
attributes. Nothing in the universe was capable of supporting such
a burden, except Man, whom God made in His own image."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

8. (1960) some "mouthfuls": "i.e. some human infirmities [=
weaknesses] or unspiritual thoughts. It is improbable that the
phrase is meant to be taken literally, according to the Hadíth 'when
the belly is filled, Wisdom becomes mute', or that it refers to the
intrusion of uninitiated persons." (Nicholson, Commentary)

9. (1961) a Luqman: There is a word play between "mouthful"
(loqma) and "Luqman," the name of a prophet in the Qur'an who
excelled in wisdom. "For Luqmán, the sage who gives his name to
the thirty-first Súrah [= chapter] of the Qur'án... He appears as a
sagacious negro slave in several anecdotes related by Rúmî.... The
medieval Arabic version of Aesop's Fables is ascribed to Luqmán."
(Nicholson, Commentary)

10. (1961) it's the time for Luqman: "I.e. it is high time that the pure
spirit, which sensuality and worldliness keep confined in the body,
should be released from its prison." (Nicholson, Commentary)

11. (1962) these itches: may also be translated, "these afflictions,"
"these wounds." This scratching and itching of a thorn is an idiom
in Persian for "nagging desire." Nicholson later changed his
translation of this verse, based on the earliest manuscript, to:
"These pricks (of the flesh) from desire of a morsel! Seek ye
always (to draw forth) the thorn from the sole of Luqmán" (from,
"for the sake of a morsel! Pluck ye forth the thorn...").

12. (1963) the discrimination: "I.e. 'you have not sufficient
discernment to perceive that within you is a pure spirit of Divine
origin, which is your real self, and that the only "thorn" is the
illusion of phenomenal existence'. The thorn is the lowest form of
life in the vegetable kingdom, the date-palm is the highest.... The
spines (khâr) on the stem of the date-palm (khurmá-bun) are
proverbial: (khár bá khurmá-st" [= "Spines are next to dates."]
(Nicholson, Commentary)


dar bayân-é în HadîS ke "inna li-rabbi-kum fî ayyâmi dahri-kum
nafaHât-in alâ fa-ta`arraZu la-hâ"

1951 goft payghâmbar ke nafHat-hây-é Haq
andar-în ayyâm mê-âr-ad sabaq

gôsh-o hosh dâr-îd în awqât-râ
dar robây-îd în chon-în nafHât-râ

nafHa âmad mar shomâ-râ dîd-o raft
har-ke-râ mê-khwâst, jân bakhshîd-o raft

nafHa-yé dêgar rasîd âgâh bâsh
tâ az-în ham wâ na-mân-î khwâja-tâsh

1955 jân-é nârî yâft az way inTifâ
morda pôshîd az baqây-é ô qabâ

tâzagî-wo jonbesh-é Tûbî-st în
ham-chô jonbesh-hây-é khalq-ân nêst în

gar dar oftad dar zamîn-o âsmân
zahra-hâ-shân âb gard-ad dar zamân

khwad ze-bîm-é în dam-é bê-muntahâ
bâz khwân fa-bayna an yaHmilna-hâ

w-ar-na khwad ashfaqna min-hâ chûn bod-y
gar-na az bîm-ash del-é koh khûn shod-y?

1960 dôsh dêgar lawn în mê-dâd dast
loqma-yé chandê dar âmad, rah bo-bast

bahr-é loqma gashta luqmânê geraw
waqt-é luqmân-ast, ay loqma be-raw

az hawây-é loqma'yê în khâr-khâr
az kaf-é luqmân hamê jôy-îd khâr

dar kaf-é ô khâr-o sâya'sh nêz nêst
lêk-etân az HirS ân tamyîz nêst

khâr dân ân-râ ke khormâ dîda-î
z-ân-ke bas nân-kûr-o bas nâ-dîda-î

1965jân-é luqmân ke golestân-é khodâ-st
pây-é jân-ash khasta-yé khârê cherâ-st?

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)