How Ayaz Interceded for the Nobles of the Court of King Mahmood

Mathnawi V: 4085, 4088-4119

4085 The king1 made a sign to the old executioner, (meaning):
"Send these detestable misers2 far from my seat of honor."

. . . . . . .

4088 Then (that) causer of love, Ayaz,3 jumped up (and) hurried to
the throne of the powerful king.

He made a bow4 and tensed his throat, (saying), "O great king,
by whom the heavens are amazed;

4090 "O phoenix bird,5 by whom (all) phoenixes have (good)
fortune and (by whom) every generous person has generosity;

"O noble one, (by) whom the noble deeds of the world became
obliterated and hidden in the presence of your abundant generosity;

"O lovely one, whom the red rose saw (and) tore (its) shirt because
of shame--6

"By your forgiveness, forgiveness (itself (is) satisfied. Because of
your pardon, the foxes7 are victorious over the lion.

"Except for your pardon, who has (any) support? Who acts with
fearless insolence in spite of your command?

4095 "The disregard and rude boldness of these offenders is from
the abundance of your overlooking (such actions),8 O abode of

Disregard and negligence continue to appear because of insolence,
since (only) a respectful attitude may take away disease from the

The sinful negligence and forgetfulness learned (by someone) may
become burned (away) by the fire of respect and reverence.

Reverence and awe [of God]10 will give him wakefulness11 and
sharp understanding, (and) negligence and forgetfulness will jump
out from his heart.

People do not fall asleep at the time of a raid, so that no one may
rob their cloaks.

4100 Since sleep flees because of the fear of (losing a) cloak, the
sleep of forgetfulness will never be (compatible) with the fear of
(being cut in) the throat.12

The verse, "Do not punish (us) if we forget"13 is evidence that
forgetfulness is, in a way, also sinful.

Because he failed to act with complete reverence-- otherwise,
forgetfulness would not have brought war [to defeat him].

Even though (this) forgetfulness was necessary and unavoidable,
by cultivating the cause (of it), he was free to choose.

Then he showed contempt toward (acts of) reverence, so that
forgetfulness, negligence, and error were born.

4105 (It is) like a drunkard14 who commits crimes, (and then) says,
"I was excused because of (what happened to) myself."

(Then someone) says to him, "But the cause, O evil-doer, was
from you in escaping that free choice.

"Your lack of self-awareness did not come by itself, you called
(for) it; your free choice didn't go (away) by itself, you drove it

"If a drunkenness had come (to you) without your effort, the
Cupbearer of the Spirit15 would have defended your agreement
(with God),16

"(And) he would have been your supporter and petitioner for
(your) pardon. I am the admirer of the mistake of the drunkard of

4110 (Ayaz said), "The forgivenesses of the entire world18 (are
only) a particle (of dust and) the reflection of your pardon, O you
from whom (is) every portion of happiness.

"The forgivenesses (of the entire world all) speak in praise of your
pardon, (saying) '"O mankind, show caution!"19 (For) it has "no

"Grant them (their) lives and also do not drive them (away) from
yourself, (for) they are your (own) sweet wish, O you (who) drive
(your) every wish (to success).

"Be merciful to him who looked at your face.21 How will he bear
bitter separation from you?

"You are speaking about separation and severance. Do whatever
you wish, but do not (order) this!

4115 "A hundred thousand bitter deaths twisted sixty times have
no resemblance to being separated from your face.

"Keep the bitterness of severance far away from males and from
females, O you who are called on for help by wrongdoers!

"To die in hope of union with you is sweet, (but) the bitterness of
severance from you is more than (the pain from) fire."

The pagan22 is saying in the midst of Hell, "What sorrow would
there be (for me) if He looked at me (with forgiveness)?"

4119 Because that look makes all sufferings (to become) sweet; it
is the blood-price23 for (the loss of) the hands and feet of the
magicians (of Pharaoh).24

--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" (, 12/9/99

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (4085) The king: refers Mahmood of Ghazna. There are a number
of stories in the Mathnawi about this king and his favorite slave,
Ayaz, in which Ayaz symbolizes a sufi dervish saint and the king
symbolizes Almighty God. Ayaz was made the king's vizier (or
prime minister). In Islamic cultures, it was common for favorite
slaves to be given positions of power and influence. "In the
allegorical interpretation of this Story the King is God, Ayáz the
Perfect Man who intercedes for sinners on the Day of Judgement,
and the 'ancient executioner' the Angel of Divine punishment
(malaku 'l-`adháb)." (Nicholson, Commentary)

2. (4085) these detestable misers: earlier in the story, the king tested
some of the nobles of his court by ordering them to smash a
precious pearl, which they refused to do. But the king's favorite
slave, Ayaz, smashed the pearl without hesitation. The king then
wanted to punish the nobles for showing contempt toward the act
of respect which he expected from them.

3. (4088) (that) causer of love, Ayaz: literally, "increaser of love."
Ayaz symbolizes the lover of God, who by his saintly humility and
purity of devotion, evokes love and forgiveness from the Beloved,
and Source of Love, God Most High.

4. (4089) he made a bow: a prostration [sajda] of obeisance and
respect made to kings. It was understood by the Muslims of the
time to be different from the prostration of worship (of God only)
in the ritual prayer.

5. (4090) phoenix bird [homâ]: a metaphor for the cause of good
fortune. In pre-Islamic Iran, fortune was conceived as a bird with
magical powers which flew about the world. If its shadow fell
upon a man, this meant that he would become a king, or at least
very fortunate.

6. (4092) because of shame: because the rose felt ashamed of being in
the presence of someone who was far more beautiful. The red rose
"tore his shirt," refers to the ancient custom of "rending one's
garments" during a state of extreme emotions.

7. (4093) the foxes: In Persian literature, foxes are portrayed as the
lowly followers of the mighty lion, who sends them to scout for
game or to accompany him as his "royal" retinue. There is a story
in the Mathnawi of how a fox was able to trick a lion (V: 2870-

8. (4095) your overlooking (such actions): "Cf. II 336 [= "The King's
grace makes the soul sin-seeking, because the King makes every
foul thing fair"-- translated by Nicholson] and the note ad loc." [=
Nicholson quotes from the sufi master Qushayri: "God let them fall
into sin when He called Himself forgiving (`afuww)."] (Nicholson,

9. (4096) disease from the eye: "I.e. will enable the spiritual eye to
see clearly." (Nicholson, footnote)

10. (4098) reverence and awe (of God): this word [haybat], means
fear, respect, reverence, awe. "To those who are (willing to be)
guided, He increases their guidance and gives them pious fear."
(Qur'an 47:17). The term "fear of God" [taqwâ] in Islam does not
mean "fear" in the usual sense, but a kind of fear that is an aspect
of love. The believer and mystic fears to displease God in any way,
out of devout reverence, loving devotion, and awe of the Divine
Majesty of God. And due to the longing for nearness and "union,"
the mystic is especially careful to avoid anything which might lead
to separation from God, the Only Beloved. The fear of God is
stressed again and again in the Qur'an as a great virtue that leads
the believer to act in ways which are pleasing to God.

11. (4098) wakefulness: means awakening from the "sleep" of self-
centered preoccupation to the awareness of the overwhelming
Reality of God. Muslim saints and mystics are called the
"awakened ones" [bêdâr-ân] because they have become "awake"
[yaqZân, in Arabic] to God's Presence and Lordship and because
they are able to "see" Divine realities which are hidden to those
who are "asleep" to God. Rumi says: "Whoever is awake (to the
material world) is more asleep (to the spiritual world); his
'wakefulness' is worse than his sleep. When our souls are not
awake to God, wakefulness is like our prison bars" -- Mathnawi I:

12. (4100) (being cut in) the throat: "I.e. fear of spiritual perdition" [=
final spiritual ruin in Hell]. (Nicholson, footnote)

13. (4101) if we forget: a modification (for metrical purposes) of the
verse, "(O Lord), do not punish (us) if we forget or
(unintentionally) fall into error." --Qur'an 2: 286

14. (4085) like a drunkard: "As a rule, Moslem jurists disallow the
plea that an intoxicated person is irresponsible (ma`dhûr) for any
crime or offence he may commit." (Nicholson, Commentary)

15. (4108) the Cupbearer of the Spirit [sâqî-yé jân]: refers to spiritual
intercession, perhaps by an angel, saint, or the Prophet

16. (4108) the mistake of the drunkard of God: "The case of a 'God-
intoxicated' man is quite different." (Nicholson, Commentary)

17. (4109) your agreement (with God): means the agreement of a
Muslim [literally, "a surrenderer"] to obey the Will of God-- in
other words, not to sin. The meaning here is that the wrong actions
produced by being overcome by spiritual drunkeness would have
been pardoned.

18. (4110) The forgivenesses of the entire world: Ayaz again
intercedes with the king to beg for mercy, which has the additional
meaning of the saint's intercession with God. "Though nominally
addressed to Sultan Mahmúd, these verses describe and invoke the
Divine Mercy which transcends Wrath." (Nicholson, Commentary)
Nicholson here referred to the Divine saying (hadîthu 'l-qudSî-- a
non-Qur'anic tradition): "Truly My Mercy prevails over My
Wrath." And in another form: "My Mercy precedes My Wrath."
Rumi says, "His Mercy has preceded (His) Anger so that, by
means of Mercy, (mankind) may become fit for being proved. His
Mercy has been foremost over (His) Anger, so that the assets of
existence may come to hand (for them). For without enjoyment,
flesh and skin do not grow; (and) if (they) do grow, what can love
for the Beloved consume?!" (Mathnawi III: 4166-4168)

19. (4111) be cautious [ittaqû]: "O mankind, show pious caution
toward your Sustaining Lord" (Qur'an 22:1). Since these words are
really addressed to God, this verse is abbreviated here to mean
here, "O people, be cautious about comparing the King's generosity
to the generosity of any other." See note above on "reverence and
awe (of God."

20. (4111) it has no equal [nêst kufw-ash]: similarly, Rumi has adapted
this from the famous verse, "And there is no [wa lam yakun] one
like [kufuw-an] Him" (Qur'an 112:4).

21. (4113) him who looked at your face: "i.e. formerly enjoyed thy
favor." (Nicholson, Commentary)

22. (4118) the pagan (gabr): literally, "Zoroastrian," meaning dualist
(one who believes that there are two divinities, for good and evil).
A term in Persian literature which came to mean any who denies
that there is One God who created and rules the universe--
especially dualists, polytheists, and idol-worshippers.

23. (4119) blood-price: the compensation paid to someone who is
injured mistakenly, or paid to the family of someone who is killed
mistakenly. In Persian poetry it is often used metaphorically in the
context of a lover's willingness to be "killed" by his beloved. In
sufism, this willingness to lose one's life for the beloved is a
symbol for "mystical death."

24. (4119) the magicians (of Pharaoh): After Moses defeated Pharaoh's
magicians by means of the power of God manifested through his
staff, the magicians "fell down in prostration, saying: 'We believe
in the Sustaining Lord of (all) the worlds, the Lord of Moses and
Aaron.' (Then) Pharaoh said, 'Do you believe in him [Moses]
before I give you permission?.... Surely I will cut off your hands
and your feet on opposite sides...'" The magicians replied, "We are
sent back to our Lord.... O our Lord! Give us patience and take us
as submitters to Your Will" (Qur'an 7:120-126)


4185 kard ishârat shah ba-jallâd-é kohon
ke ze-Sadr-am în khas-ân-râ dûr kon

. . . . . . .

4188 pas ayâz-é mehr-afzâ bar jahîd
pêsh-é takht-é ân ologh-sulTân dawîd

sajda'yê kard-o golôy-é khwad gereft
k-ây qobâdê k-az tô charkh âr-ad shegeft

4190 ay homâyê ke homây-ân farrakhî
az tô dâr-and-o sakhâwat har sakhî

ay karîmê ke karam-hây-é jahân
maHw gard-ad pêsh-é îSâr-at nehân

ay latîfê ke gol-é sorkh-at be-dîd
az khajâlat pêrahan-râ bar darîd

az ghafûrîy-é tô ghufrân chashm-sêr
rôbah-ân bar shêr az `afw-ê tô chêr

joz ke `afw-é tô ke-râ dâr-ad sanad
har-ke bâ amr-é tô bê-bâkî kon-ad?

4195 ghaflat-o gostâkhî-yê în mujrim-ân
az wufûr-é `afw-é to-st ay `afwalân

dâ'îmâ ghaflat ze-gostâkhî dam-ad
ke bar-ad ta`Zîm az dîda ramad

ghaflat-o nisyân-é bad âmôkhta
z-âtesh-é ta`Zîm gard-ad sôkhta

haybat-ash bîdârî-wo fiTnat deh-ad
sahw-o nisyân az del-ash bêrûn jah-ad

waqt-é ghârat khwâb n-ây-ad khalq-râ
tâ be-na-r'bây-ad kasê z-ô dalq-râ

4200 khwâb chûn dar mê-ram-ad az bîm-é dalq
khwâb-é nisyân kay bow-ad bâ bîm-é Halq

lâ tû' akhiZ in nasî-nâ shod gowâh
ke bow-ad nisyân ba-wajhê ham gonâh

z-ân-ke istikmâl-ê ta`Zîm ô na-kard
w-ar-na nisyân dar na-y-âward-y nabard

gar-che nisyân lâ-bud-o nâ-châr bow-ad
dar sabab warzîdan ô mukhtâr bow-ad

ke tahâwun kard dar ta`Zîm-hâ
tâ ke nisyân zâd yâ sahw-o khaTâ

4205 hamchô mastê k-ô jinâyat-hâ kon-ad
gôy-ad ô ma`Zûr bûd-am man ze-khwad

gôy-ad-ash lêken sabab ay zasht-kâr
az tô bod dar raftan-é ân ikhtiyâr

bê-khwadî n-âmad ba-khwad, to-sh khwând-î
ikhtiyâr-at khwad na-shod, to-sh rând-î

gar rasîd-y mastî-yê bê jahd-é tô
HafZ kard-y sâqî-yé jân ahd-é tô

posht-dâr-at bûd-y ô-wo `uZr-khwâh
man gulâm-é zallat-é mast-é ilâh

4210 `afw-hây-é jomla `âlam Zarra'yê
`aks-é `afw-at ay ze-tô har bahra'yê

`afw-hâ gofta Sanây-é `afw-é tô
nêst kufw-ash, ayyu-hâ 'n-nâs ittaqû

jân-eshân bakhsh-o ze-khwad-shân ham ma-rân
kâm-é shîrîn-é tow-and, ay kâm-rân

raHm kon bar way ke rôy-é tô be-dîd
furqat-é talkh-é tô chûn khwâh-ad kashîd?

az firâq-o hajr mê-gôy-î sokhon
har-che khwâh-î kon-o lêken în ma-kon

4215 Sad hazâr-ân marg-ê talkh-é shaSt-tô
nêst mânand-é firâq-é rôy-é tô

talkî-yé hajr az Zukûr-o az inâS
dûr dâr ay mujrim-ân-râ mustaghâS

bar omêd-é waSl-é tô mordan khwash-ast
talkhiy-é hajr-é tô fawq-é âtesh-ast

gabr mê-gôy-ad meyân-é ân saqar
che gham-am bûd-y, gar-am kard-y naZar?

4219 k-ân naZar shîrîn konanda-yé ranj-hâ-st
sâHir-ân-râ khûn-bahây-é dast-o pâ-st

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)