Quarreling Over Names

Mathnawi II: 3679-3692, 3699-3705

3679 Pass beyond (external) names and look at the (underlying)
qualities,1 so that the qualities may show you the way to the

3680 The opposition (among) people takes place because of
names.2 Peace occurs when they go to the real meaning.

The argument of four persons over grapes, which each one had
understood by a different name

A man gave four persons a silver coin. The (first) one (who was a
Persian) said, "I will give this for (buying) some angûr."

An other one (who) was an Arab said, "No! I want `inab -- not
angûr, O deceitful (man)!"

The (third) one was a Turk and he said, "This (coin) is mine.3 I
don't want `inab. I want üzüm."

The (fourth) one, an Anatolian Greek, said, "Quit (all) this talk! I
want istâfîl."4

3685 In (their) disagreement, those individuals were (soon) in a
fight -- since they were uninformed of the hidden (meaning) of the

They were striking at each other (with their) fists out of ignorance.
They were full of foolishness and (were) devoid of knowledge.

If a master of (the meaning of) secrets, a venerable one (with
knowledge) of numerous languages,5 had been there, he would
have given them reconciliation and peace.

Then he would have said, "By means of this one silver coin, I will
grant the wishes of all of you.

"This coin will cause effects such as these when you submit (your)
hearts (to me) without deceit.

3690 "Your one coin will become (like) four (coins) for the desired
(result). (And) four enemies will become (as) one from unity (of

"The words of each one of you offer (only) fighting and separation.
But my words will bring you harmonious agreement.

3692 "Therefore, you be quiet (and) stay silent!6 So that I may
become your tongue for (needed) conversation."

. . . . . . .

3699 Tranquillity and peaceful association7 come from (hearing)
the sayings of the spiritual master,8 (but) the words of envious
people9 bring discord and separation.10

3700 Such as (in the case of) Solomon, who rushed from the
direction of the (Divine) Presence (as a Messenger of God),11 for he
understood the languages of all birds.12

During the era of his just (rule), the deer obtained friendship with
the leopard and emerged from conflict and war.

The pigeon became safe from (the clutches of) the hawk's talons,
(and) the sheep did not (need to) maintain (fear and) avoidance of
the wolf.

(Solomon) became a mediator between enemies; he became a
(maker of) unity among (creatures that) beat (their) feathers.13

You are like an ant, running for the sake of a seed (of grain). Hurry
(and) look for (one like) Solomon!14 Why are you (going) astray?

3705 As for the seeker of grain, the seeds are (used as) a trap for
him.15 But the seeker of (one like) Solomon has both ["Solomon" and "grain"].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" (yahoogroups.com), 3/14/02

Notes on the text, with line number:

1(3679) look at the (underlying) qualities: "i.e. 'contemplate the
Divine attributes in the hope that you may be invested with them
and led to mystical union with the Essence'." (Nicholson,

"In other words, 'Pass on from various Names (of God) and detach
(yourself from) looking at different Attributes -- for each Name has
been placed to correspond to a single Attribute-- so that those
numerous Attributes may give you an indication of the way toward
the Essence of the One endowed with (such) qualities. (And) so
that you may contemplate the Essence of the Uniquely One, which
manifests with different glorious Attributes and various Actions,
and become free from skepticism and doubts.'" (Anqaravi, the 17th
century Turkish commentator, translated here into English from a
Persian translation)

2(3680) The opposition (among) people takes place because of
names: "(It means), 'The differences among mankind began
because of (the differences between) names -- a time which
departed with (the understanding of) the (real) meaning (and when)
peace and tranquillity were apparent.... But when the real meaning
is found, in that moment peace and tranquillity are (also) found.'"
(Anqaravi, Commentary)

3(3683) mine [banom]: "modern Turkish 'benim.'" (Nicholson,

4(3684) istâfîl: Nicholson noted that this derives from (the more
common Greek word) "staphulê." (Commentary)

5 (3687) (with knowledge) of numerous languages: "i.e. familiar
with the realities underlying all names and forms of expression. Cf.
I 1205-1207[= trans. by Nicholson: "To speak the same tongue is a
kinship and affinity: a man, (when he is) with those in whom he
cannot confide, is like a prisoner in chains. Oh, many are the
Indians and Turks that speak the same tongue; oh, many the pair of
Turks that are as strangers (to each other). Therefore the tongue of
mutual understanding is different indeed: to be one in heart is
better than to be one in tongue."] and v. 3742 infra [= trans. by
Nicholson: "Until the spiritual Solomon, skilled in tongues, shall
intervene, this duality will not disappear"]." (Nicholson,

6(3692) stay silent: Qur'an 7:203. ". . . and when the Qur'án is
recited, listen to it and keep silence (wa-ansitú), that ye may obtain
mercy.'" (Nicholson, Commentary)

7(3699) Tranquillity and peaceful association [jam`iyyat]:
Nicholson translated, "union (concord)."

8(3699) the spiritual master [shaykh]: literally, "old man." Means, in
sufism, a master of the Islamic mystical path.

9(3699) envious people [ahl-é Hasad]: Nicholson later changed his
translation, based on two early manuscripts (which have "ahl-é
jasad) to "the words of the corporealists (materialists)" (from, "the
words of the envious"). "Read 'ahl-i jasad,' 'unspiritual men', with
the two oldest MSS." (Commentary) However, the edition used
here of the Mathnawi by Tôfîq Sobhânî, which is based on the
oldest manuscript, has "ahl-é Hasad."

10(3699) bring discord and separation: "(It means), 'But the words of
envious people lead the heart to discord, separation, and
dispersion.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

11(3700) who rushed from the direction of the (Divine) Presence (as
a Messenger of God): "In other words, 'He was sent from nearness
to the Presence of God Most High for the sake of inviting the
people to [return to the one] God.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)

12(3700) Such as (in the case of) Solomon. . . for he understood the
languages of all birds: According to the Qur'an, Solomon was
taught by God to understand the "language of the birds" ["manTiqu
'T-Tayr," Qur'an 26:16-28]. The great Persian poet, `Attâr (d. circa
1225 C. E.), Rumi's predecessor, composed a famous sufi work
named the "Language of the Birds" using this phrase from the
Qur'an. For the story in the Mathnawi, see I: 1202-33.

13(3703) he became a (maker of) unity among (creatures that) beat
(their) feathers: "In other words, by means of the peace-making of
Solomon, friendship and companionship became manifest among
the (various kinds of) birds." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

14(3704) look for (one like) Solomon: "i.e. a murshid [= a spiritual
guide]." (Nicholson, Commentary) For the connection between
"You are like an ant" and "look for (one like) Solomon," see
Qur'an 27:18-19, where Solomon understood the speech of an ant.

15(3705) the seeds are (used as) a trap for him [dâna-ash dâmê
shaw-ad]: Nicholson translated, "his grain becomes a snare..."
However, Anqaravi read it as, "... the seed becomes a trap for his
sake," which makes more sense. (Commentary)

16(3705) But the seeker of (one like) Solomon has both
["Solomon" and "grain"]: "In other words, 'For the seeker of the
food of egotism [ghaZây-é nafs], the food becomes a snare and
causes deception and loss for him. But for the one who is a seeker
of a true Solomon, both a true Solomon--who was his sought
object -- as well as physical and spiritual nourishment are gained.'"
(Anqaravi, Commentary)


3679 dar-goZar az nâm-o be-n'gar dar Sifât
tâ Sifât-at rah nomây-ad sôy-é Zât

3680 ikhtilâf-é khalq az nâm ôftâd
chûn ba-ma`nà raft, ârâm ôftâd

munâza`at-é chahâr kas jehat-é angûr ke har yakê ba-nâm-é dîgar fahm karda bûd ân-râ

châr kas-râ dâd mardê yak deram
ân yakê goft în ba-angûrê deh-am

ân yakê dêgar `arab bod goft lâ
man `inab khwâh-am na angûr ay daghâ

ân yakê torkê bod-o goft în ban-om
man na-mê-khwâh-am `inab khwâh-am zm

ân yakê rûmî be-goft în qîl-râ
tark kon, khwâh-êm istâfîl-râ

3685 dar tanâzu` ân nafar jangî shod-and
ke ze sirr-é nâm-hâ ghâfil bod-and

mosht bar-ham mê-zad-and az ablahî
por bod-and az jahl-o az dânesh tohî

SâHib-é sirrê, `azîzê Sad zabân
gar body ân-jâ, be-dâdî SulH-éshân

pas be-goftî ô ke man z-în yak deram
ârzôy-é jumla-tân-râ mê-deh-am

chûn-ke be-s'pâr-êd del-râ bê-daghal
în deram-tân mê-kon-ad chand-în `amal

3690 yak deram-tân mê-shaw-ad châr al-murâd
châr doshman mê-shaw-ad yak z-ittiHâd

goft-é har yak-tân deh-ad jang-o firâq
goft-é man âr-ad shomâ-râ ittifâ q

3692 pas shomâ khâmôsh bâsh-êd 'anSitû
tâ zabân-tân man shaw-am dar goft-o gô

. . . . . . .

3699 az HadîS-é shaykh jam`iyyat ras-ad
tafriqa âr-ad dam-é ahl-é Hasad

3700 chûn sulaymân k-az sôy-é Hazrat be-tâkht
k-ô zabân-é jumla-yé morgh-ân shenâkht

dar zamân-é `adl-ash âhû bâ palang
uns be-g'reft-o berûn âmad ze-jang

shod kabûtar âmin az changâl-é bâz
gôsfand az gorg n-âward iHtirâz

ô meyânjî shod meyân-é doshman-ân
ittiHâdê shod meyân-é par-zan-ân

tô chô mûrê bahr-é dâna mê-daw-î
hîn sulaymân jô, che mê-bâsh-î ghawî?

3705 dâna-jô-râ dâna-ash dâmê shaw-ad
w-ân sulaymân-jôy-râ har dô bow-ad

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)