The Hunter and the Hunted

Mathnawi V: 723-760

723 He is so drowned in his own passion (for hunting, that) he is
unaware of his own pursuer and hunter.

If grass is devouring some water and air, an animal's stomach is
grazing (close) behind.

725 That grass is (both) the eater and the eaten, just as anything
that exists-- other than God.

Since He is (described in the verse as) "And He feeds you and is
not fed,"1 God is neither eater or eaten, (like living) flesh and skin.

The eater and the eaten are never safe from some (other) eater,
which is waiting quietly in ambush.

The security of the eaten ones is attractive for bereavement (to
follow). Go (for security) to that Court, for He "is not fed"!

For every mental image, there is some (other) mental image
consuming (it); for (every) thought, there is another thought
grazing on (it).

730 You aren't able to escape from a mental image, or to sleep so
that you can jump outside of it.

Thoughts are the bees, and that sleep of yours (is) the water (in
which you try to escape); when you wake up, the bees come back.

Many mental "bees" fly in, to draw (you) this way and take (you)
that way.

These mental images are the least of those which devour, and the
Owner of Majesty2 knows (well the power of) the others!

Take care! Escape from the crowd of rough devourers,3 to (refuge
in) Him who said, "I am your Protector."4

735 Or (flee) to the one who has obtained (from God the power of)
protection, if you are unable to hurry (directly) to that Protector.

Don't pledge (your) hand (to any), except to the hand of the (sufi)
Elder,5 (for) God has become the "Hand-Holder"6 for his hand.

The (sufi) Elder (is) your (guiding) intellect, (which) has been
made habitually childish from being the neighbor of the ego, which
is within the veil [of selfish passions].

Join (that) perfected intellect to (your weak) intellect, so that
(your) mind may turn back from that harmful nature.

When you put your hand in his hand, then you will jump outside
the grasp of the devourers.

740 (And) your hand will become (part of) the "People of the
Pledge,"7 since "The Hand of God is over their hands."8

When you have given your hand to the sufi Elder's hand-- the wise
Elder who is knowing and honorable,

Since he is (like) the prophet of his time,9 O disciple, so that the
light of the Prophet becomes visible (in him),

By this you will have been present at Hudaybiya and a fellow
companion to the Companions of the Pledge.10

Then you will have become (like one) of the Ten of Good News,11
(and) you will have become purified like pure gold.

745 (And this is) so that (your) association may become right,
because a man is joined to someone he has made friends with;

He is with him (in) this world and the next-- and this is (the
meaning of) the saying of sweet-natured Ahmad,12

(Who) said, "A man is with the one whom he loves,"13 (meaning
that) the heart is not separate from its desired object.

Sit less (often) wherever there is a trap and bait. O you who
suppose others to be weak: go (and) look (carefully) at those who
take others to be weak.

O assumer of the weakness of the weak, know this: (that) there is
also a hand above (your) hand, O young man!

750 You are weak, and (yet) you assume weakness (in others)--
how amazing! You are both the prey and the hunter in pursuit!

Don't be (like those mentioned in the verse who have) "a barrier14
in front and behind them," so that you will not see (your) enemy,
and (yet your) enemy (will be) obvious.

The greed of hunting is negligence of being the prey; he (thinks he)
is winning a (sweet-) heart, but he is lacking a heart!

Don't be less than a bird in seeking, (since even) a sparrow sees
"in front (and) behind."

(Because) when it comes next to the seed, it turns (its) head and
face forward and behind (at that) moment.

755 Thinking, "I wonder (if) there is a hunter in front or behind
me?-- so that I should draw back from this morsel because of fear
of him."

You should see behind (you in) the stories (in the Qur'an) about the
wrongdoers; you should (also) look in front (of you) at the deaths
of (your) friends and neighbors,

For He brought destruction upon them without (need of) an
instrument, and He is connected to you in every situation.

God punished (them) without (need) of a hand or mace: so know
that God is the Justice-Maker without hands.

The one who would say [in public], "If God exists, where (is
He)?"-- he was on the (torture) rack15 confessing, "He [exists]!"

760 The one who said, "This ("existence") is strange and remote,"
was shedding tears and continually calling out: "O (You who are)

--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 translation)
Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (, 7/30/99

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (726) is not fed: part of a verse in the Qur'an (6:14, modified for
metrical purposes): "Say: 'Shall I take a protector besides God, the
Maker of the heavens and the earth, and He that feeds and is not

2. (733) Owner of Majesty [Zu 'l-jalâl]: one of the "Ninety-Nine
Names of God" in sufism. "And the Face of your Sustaining Lord
will last (for ever): the Owner of Majesty and Honor" (Qur'ân
55:27, 78).

3. (734) rough devourers: "i.e. our vile passions and the sins to which
they impel us." (Nicholson, Commentary)

4. (734) Protector [HafîZ]: another of the "Ninety-Nine Names of
God": "Truly, my sustaining Lord is the Protector [HafîZ] over
everything" (Qur'an 11:57; 34:21).

5. (736) Elder [pîr]: means the sufi shaykh, master, guide, spiritual

6. (736) hand-holder [dast-gîr]: an idiom meaning one who comes to
aid and protect. Refers to the sufi initiation, or "pledge of
allegiance" [bay`at], in which a spiritual seeker becomes a disciple
by taking the hand of the sufi guide. This ritual is itself based on a
Qur'anic verse about a famous pledge given to the Prophet
Muhammad by his followers at a place called Hudaybiya:
"Certainly, those who swear allegiance to you are swearing
allegiance to God, (and) the Hand of God is over their hands" (Q.

7. (740) the People of the Pledge; the Hand of God: see previous

8. (740) "The Hand of God is over their hands": see note on line 736.

9. (742) the prophet of his time: refers to a saying attributed to the
Prophet Muhammad, "The shaykh among my people is like a
prophet among his people." (Translated from the Arabic in
Nicholson's Commentary)

10. (743) Companions of the Pledge: see previous note on line 740.

11. (744) the Ten of Good News: "The Prophet is said to have
promised ten of his Companions, including Abú Bakr, `Umar,
`Uthmán, and `Alí, that they would enter Paradise." (Nicholson,

12. (746) Ahmad: a contracted form of the name of the Prophet

13. (747) whom he loves: "It is related that someone came to the
Prophet and questioned him concerning the time of the
Resurrection. The Prophet asked what provision he had made for
it. 'Not very many prayers and fasts', he replied; 'but I love Allah
and His Prophet.' 'A man', said Mohammad, 'is with him whom he
loves'" [= in the world to come] (Nicholson, Commentary)

14. (751) a barrier: refers to Qur'an 36:9 (altered for metrical
purposes): "And We have put a barrier in front of them and a
barrier behind them, and We have covered them so that they
cannot see."

15. (759) on the torture rack: refers to the crime of blasphemy in
public, in this case, denying the existence of God.

16. (760) Near: another of the "Ninety-Nine Names of God": "O my
people, worship God: you have no divinity other than Him. He
produced you from the earth and made you dwell in it. So ask
forgiveness from Him, and turn to Him (in repentance). Truly my
Sustaining Lord is Near [Qarîb], Responsive" (Qur'an 11:61; see
also 34:50; 2:186).


723 ô chonân gharq-ast dar sawdây-é khwad
ghâfil-ast az Tâlib-o jôyây-é khwad

gar Hashîsh âb-o hawâyê mê-khwar-ad
ma`da-yé Haywân-sh dar pay mê char-ad

725 âkil-o mâ'kûl âm-ad ân geyâh
ham-chon-în har hastîyê ghayr-é illâh

wa h'wa yuT`im-kum wa lâ yuT`am chô ô-st
nêst Haq mâ'kûl-o âkil, laHm-o pôst

âkil-o mâ'kûl kay îman bow-ad
z-âkilê k-ândar kamîn sâkin bow-ad?

amn-é mâ' kûl-ân jaZûb-é mâtam-ast
raw ba-d-ân dargâh k-ô lâ yuT`am-ast

har khayâlê-râ khayâlê mê-khwar-ad
fikr ân fikr-é degar-râ mê char-ad

730 tô na-tân-î k-az khayâlê wâ rah-î
yâ be-khosp-î ke az ân bêrûn jah-î

fikr zanbûr-ast-o ân khwâb-é tô âb
chûn shaw-î bêdâr bâz ây-ad Zubâb

chand zanbûr-é khayâlê dar par-ad
mê-kash-ad în sô-wo ân sô mê-bar-ad

kam-tarîn-é âkil-ân-ast în khayâl
w-ân degar-hâ-râ shenâs-ad Zu 'l-jalâl

hîn gorîz az jawq-é âkkâl-é ghalîZ
sôy-é ô ke goft mâ' êm-at HafîZ

735 yâ ba-sôy-é ân-ke ô ân HifZ yâft
gar na-tân-î sôy-é ân HâfiZ shetâft

dast-râ ma-s'pâr joz dar dast-é pîr
Haq shod-ast ân dast-é ô-râ dastgîr

pîr `aql-at kôdakî-khô karda-ast
az jiwâr-é nafs k-andar parda-ast

`aql-é kâmil-râ qarîn kon bâ kherad
tâ ke bâz ây-ad kherad z-an khôy-é bad

chûn-ke dast-é khwad ba-dast-é ô neh-î
pas ze-dast-é âkil-ân bêrûn jah-î

740 dast-é tô az ahl-é ân bay`at shaw-ad
ke yadu 'llâh fawqa aydî-him bow-ad

chûn be-dâd-î dast-é khwad dar dast-é pîr
pîr-é Hikmat ke `alîm-ast-o khaTîr

k-ô nabiyy-é waqt-é khwêsh-ast ay murîd
tâ az-ô nûr-é nabî ây-ad padîd

dar Hudaybiyya shod-î HâZir ba-d-în
w-ân SaHâba-yé bay`atî-râ ham-qarîn

pas ze-dah yâr-é mubashshar âmad-î
ham-chô zarr-é dah-dahî khâliS shod-î

745 tâ ma`îyyat râst ây-ad, z-ânke mard
bâ kasê joft-ast k-ô-râ dôst kard

în jahân-o ân jahân bâ ô bow-ad
w-în HadîS-é aHmad-é khwash-khô bow-ad

goft al-mar'u ma`a maHbûbi-hi
lâ yufakku 'l-qalbu min maTlûbi-hi

har ko-jâ dâm-ast-o dâna, kam neshîn
raw zabûn-gîrâ, zabûn-gîr-ân be-bîn

ay zabûn-gîr-é zabûn-ân în be-dân
dast ham bâlây-é dast-ast ay jawân

750 tô zabûn-î wo zabûn-gîr, ay `ajab
ham tô Sayd-o Sayd-gîr andar Talab

bayna aydî khalfa-hum sadd-an ma-bâsh
ke na-bîn-î khaSm-râ w-ân khaSm fâsh

HirS-é Sayyâdî ze-Saydî mughfil-ast
del-bariyê mê-kon-ad, ô bê-del-ast

tô kam az morghê ma-bâsh andar nashîd
bayna aydî khalf `uSfûrê be-dîd

chûn ba-nazd-é dâna ây-ad pêsh-o pas
chand gardân-ad sar-o rô ân nafas

755 k-ây `ajab pêsh-o pas-am Sayyâd hast
tâ kash-am az bîm-é ô z-în loqma dast?

tô be-bîn pas QaSSa-yé fujjâr-râ
pêsh be-n'gar marg-é yâr-o jâr-râ

ke halâkat dâd-ashân bê-âlatê
ô qarîn-é to-st dar har Hâlatê

Haq shekanja kard-o gorz-o dast nêst
pas be-dân bê-dast Haq dâwar-konî-st

ânke mê-gofty agar Haq hast, kô?
dar shekanja-yê ô muqir mê-shod ke hû

760 ânke mê-goft în ba`îd-ast-o `ajîb
askh mê-rand-o hamê goft ay qarîb

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)