What God Wills (part one)

Mathnawi V: 3111-3130

The meaning of (the saying of the Prophet Muhammad), "What
God willed occurred."1 In other words, the will (is) His will and
approval.2 (So) seek His approval, (and) don't be distressed by
the anger and rejection of others. Although the word "kâna"
[meaning, "occurred"] is the past (tense),3 yet with the Action of
God there is no past or future. For, with God there is no morning
and no evening.

3111 The saying of the (Prophet Muhammad, God's) servant,
"Whatever God wills occurs" is not (intended) for (the
interpretation), "Be lazy about it."4

But rather it is (meant as) urging to sincere devotion
and effort, meaning, "Be prepared for (doing) greater service
[to God]."

If they say, "O generous man, whatever you will, the
matter is your business (to do) according to (your) wish,"5

(Then) unexpectedly, if you are lazy (and fail to act),
it is allowable.6 Because what you will (to do) and what you
say (you want to do) will be (as you wish).

3115 (But) when they say (to you), "Whatever God wills occurs,
(and) the authority is His Authority, absolutely (and) eternally,"

Then why aren't you circling around Him like a (devoted)
slave (with the power of) a hundred men in continual activity?

If they say (to you), "Whatever the prime minister7 wishes
(must be obeyed), (and) the will (to command) is his, in the
pomp and dominion (of his position),"

Will you become (like) a hundred men, quickly circling
around him (in devoted service) so that he may scatter favors
and generosity upon your head?

Or will you run away from the prime minister and his
palace? This is not seeking his help.

3120 Contrarily, you've been lazy in regard to this saying
(about what God wills); you've been turned backwards (in your)
understanding and thoughts.

(If) the command belongs to such and such a master, take
care! What is (its meaning)? The meaning (is), "Don't sit (in
service to anyone) except him.

"Circle (devotedly) around the master, since the command
is his. For he kills enemies and saves the lives of friends.8

"Whatever he wills, you will surely obtain the same.
Choose service to him (and) don't go astray."

(The meaning is) not, "Since he is the commanding
authority, don't circle around him (in attendance) so that you
may (end up) becoming black of reputation and yellow of face9
[in his eyes]."

3125 The interpretation (of the saying which) is true (is) that
which makes you fervent, full of hope, active, and modest
(of manners).10

But if it makes you weak and slow, know that this (is)
the truth: it is changing (the meaning of the saying) and is
not the (right) interpretation.

This (saying) has come (to us) for the sake of fervent
action, (and) so that He may grab the (reaching) hands of
those who are hopeless.11

Ask the meaning of the Qur'an from the Qur'an and
nowhere else.12 And (also) from someone who has set fire to
(his worldly) cravings,13

(Who) has become a sacrifice to the Qur'an and (is)
humble, so that the Qur'an has become the very nature of his

3130 (For) any oil which has become completely sacrificed to
the rose, whether you smell the oil or the rose (it is the same).

--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" (yahoogroups.com),1/4/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (Heading) "What God willed occurred": "This noble explanation is
a commentary on the saying [Hadîth-- of the Prophet Muhammad],
'What God willed, occurred and what He did not will, will not
occur [mâ shâ' 'llahu kâna wa mâ lam yashâ'u lam yakun]'"
(Translated here from a Persian translation of Anqaravi's famous
17th Turkish commentary on the Mathnawi/Masnavi) Faruzanfar
("Ahâdîthu 'l-Mathnawi," p. 174) traced a similar saying (narrated
by Zayd ibn Thâbit) in the "Mustadrak" of al-Hakim: "What He
willed was, and what He did not will, will not be" [mâ shi'ta kâna
wa mâ lam tashâ' lam yakun]

2. (Heading) the will (is) His will and approval: means that God
commands what He wills and He approves and rewards those who
obey His commands. (This contrasts, in Islamic theology, to God's
absolute Will, which cannot be disobeyed.) Nicholson stated that
there are words missing here, so that the meaning should be, "the
will (is) His will and the approval is His approval." (Commentary)

3. (Heading) Although the word "kâna" [meaning, "occurred"] is the
past (tense). Rumi makes the grammatical point that in Arabic, this
verb is not always limited to past events. (See, for example, Qur'an
2:114-- "they have no right to enter"; 3:79-- "It is not [conceivable]
that a man... should say...") Therefore, it can mean in the present
tense, "What God wills occurs." That is to say, that a person should
strive and submit to God's Will, for then what God wills comes to
be, and the person will be rewarded for pleasing God.

4. (3111) Be lazy about it: Nicholson translated, "be lazy (inactive) in
that (matter)." And he explained "in that (matter)" to mean: "I.e. in
the matter of serving God." (Footnote) Anqaravi understands Rumi
to be criticizing the fatalists, or Necessitarians, who believed that
the verses in the Qur'an about Divine predestination mean that
human beings do not have real free will or responsibility: "(It
means), 'O fatalist, what this one said-- "Whatever God Most High
wills, will become that; and anything which God Most High does
not will, that will not have occurred"-- does not have the meaning,
in regard to that work and action which God Most High has
commanded: "Be lazy." Concerning "what God wills occurred,"
the speech of this one is not to be understood with the meaning: "In
agreeing to the work and actions which God Most High has
commanded, to (then) become lazy." Or that, "The servant (of
God) has no free will and power to accept the command of God."
(Or), "If God willed his obedience, he would have accomplished
it."'" (Commentary)

5. (3113) according to (your) wish: Nicholson translated, "that what
you wish (will come to pass, and that) you have full power to act
according to your desire."

6. (3114) if you are lazy (and fail to act), it is allowable: Nicholson
translated, "if you are neglectful (in serving God), 'tis permissible."
"Truly, if they talk like this and give free will completely to you, it
is permissible then for you to act lazy slothful in service to God.
Because whatever you will, you command and say, (and) it
becomes that very thing." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

7. (3117): prime minister [wazîr]: means the vizier appointed by a
king to run the daily affairs of the kingdom-- a position of great

8. (3122) saves the lives of friends: "Because that master kills
enemies and rescues the lives of friends from sorrow and
suffering." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

9. (3124) black of reputation and yellow of face (in his eyes):
Nicholson translated, "do not move round him (do not frequent his
court), so that you may fall into his black books and be disgraced."

10. (3125) modest (of attitude): Nicholson translated, "reverent."

11. (3127) those who are hopeless: Nicholson translated, "in order to
make (men) ardent (in serving God), that He may take the hands of
those who have lost hope (and deliver them)."

12. (3128) Ask the meaning of the Qur'an from the Qur'an and
nowhere else: Nicholson referred to another verse in the Mathnawi
(which he translated): "Thou hast interpreted (and altered the
meaning of) the virgin (uncorrupted) Word: interpret (alter)
thyself, not the (Divine) Book. Thou interpretest the Qur'án
according to thy desire: by thee the sublime meaning is degraded
and perverted." (I: 1080-81)

13. (3128) And (also) from someone who has set fire to (his worldly)
cravings: "And also ask the meaning of the Qur'an and its
interpretation from someone who has killed his own (selfish)
desires and cravings and who has obtained firmness and stability in
(his) actions. Because God Most High has said: 'No one knows its
hidden meanings except God and those who are firmly rooted in
knowledge' [Qur'an 3:7] (Anqaravi, Commentary) [The majority of
commentators on the Qur'an do not read this passage in this way,
as to allow certain knowers to be able to understand the hidden
meanings of the Qur'an (as "except God and those who..."), but
read it separated, as: "No one knows ... except God. And those who
are firmly rooted in knowledge say, 'We believe in it; it is all from
our Lord.'"]

14. (3129) the Qur'an has become the very nature of his spirit: "Just as
the spirit who has gone deeply into the meaning and secrets of the
Qur'an, and has obtained permeation with the Qur'an-- certainly
from that spirit the meaning and secrets of the essence of the
Qur'an come into appearance." (Anqaravi,Commentary)


ma`niy-é "mâ shâ'a 'llâhu kâna" ya`nî khwâst khwâst-é ô wa
riZâ, riZây-é ô jôy-îd, az khashm-é dêgar-ân wa radd-é dêgar-ân
del-tang ma-bâsh-îd, ân kâna agar-che lafZ-é mâZî-st lîkin dar
fa`l-é khodâ mâZî wa mustaqbal na-bâsh-ad ke laysa `inda 'llâhi
Sabâh-un wa lâ masâ'-un

3111 qawl-é banda, aysh shâ'a 'llâhu kân
bahr-é ân na-b'w-ad ke tanbal kon dar ân

bal-ke taHrîZ-ast bar ikhlâS-o jid
ke dar ân khidmat-fozûn shaw musta`id

gar be-gôy-and ân-che mê-khwâh-î tô râd
kâr kâr-é to-st bar Hasb-é murâd

ân-gah-ân tanbal kon-î jâyiz bow-ad
k-ân-che khwâh-î-w-ânche gôy-î ân shaw-ad

3115 chûn be-gôy-and 'aysh shâ'a 'llâhu kân
Hukm Hukm-é ô-st muTlaq, jâwidân

pas che-râ Sad marda andar wird-é ô
bar na-gard-î banda-gâna gerd-é ô?

gar be-gôy-and ân-che mê-khwâh-ad wazîr
khwâst ân-é ô-st andar dâr-o gîr

gerd-é ô gardân shaw-î Sad marda zûd
tâ be-rêz-ad bar sar-at iHsân-o jûd

yâ gorêz-î az wazîr-o qaSr-é ô
în na-bâsh-ad jost-o jôy-é naSr-é ô

3120 bâz-gûna z-în sokhon kâhil shod-î
mun`akis idrâk-o khâTir âmad-î

amr amr-é ân fulân khwâja-st hîn
chî-st? ya`nî bâ joz ô kam-tar neshîn

gerd-é khwâja gard, chûn amr ân-é ô-st
k-ô kosh-ad doshman, rahân-ad jân-é dôst

har-che ô khwâh-ad ham-ân yâb-î yaqîn
yâwa kam raw, khidmat-é ô bar gozîn

ney chô Hâkim ô-st, gerd-é ô ma-gard
tâ shaw-î nâma-seyâh-o rôy-zard

3125 Haq bow-ad tâ'wîl k-ân garm-at kon-ad
por-omêd-o chost-o bâ-sharm-at kon-ad

w-ar kon-ad sost-at, haqîqat în be-dân
hast tabdîl-o na tâ'wîl-ast ân

în barây-é garm-kardan âmad-ast
tâ be-gîr-ad nâ-omêd-ân-râ dô-dast

ma`niy-é qur'ân ze-qur'ân pors-o bas
w-az kasê k-âtesh zad-ast andar hawas

pêsh-é qur'ân gasht qurbânê-wo past
tâ ke `ayn-é rûH-é ô qur'ân shod-ast

3130 rawghanê k-ô shod fidây-é gol ba-kul
khwâh rawghan bôy kon, khwâh-î to gol

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)